Rob the Mob is an uneven film inspired by the real life exploits of Rose Marie and Thomas Uva, a Queens couple who hatch a scheme to rob social clubs run by the mob in the early 90s. Unsure whether it wants to be a modern day Bonnie and Clyde crime film, a mob drama, a romantic comedy, or a spiraling cautionary tale à la Sid and Nancy, the film attempts to cram as much as it can into its relatively short run time. The result is a sometimes entertaining blend, that you just wish had a sharper focus.
Tommy Uva (Michael Pitt) is fresh out of prison when his girlfriend Rosie (Nina Arianda) gets him a job at the collection agency where she works. But calling up strangers and demanding money isn’t Tommy’s thing, and he spends most of the day coming up with ideas on how debtors can milk the system a few a more days. One day he skips work altogether and attends the ongoing trial of John Gotti. He and Rosie become obsessed with the trial, reading about it, and persuading their boss to attend with them. They find out through testimony that weapons aren’t allowed in social clubs because “wise guys and weapons in a club are a bad mix.” “Ding,” the bells go off in Tommy’s head, and he develops a plan along with Rosie to start stealing from the people who have the real money. They manage to get the attention of the local media after they pull a few robberies, including that of writer Jerry Cardozo (Ray Romano) who wants to write their story. But they also get the attention of the Big Kahuna crime boss “Big Al” (Andy Garcia) who must deal with the ramifications of one robbery that results in one very important “list” getting into Tommy and Rosie’s possession.
This story is actually an interesting one, and as a fan of mob films, I am always interested in hearing different sides of the same often worn out cliches when it comes to mafia movies. Perhaps my disappointment with Rob the Mob comes from me wanting it to explore ideas that director Raymond De Felitta and writer Jonathan Fernandez weren’t interested in delving into in the first place. There are hints to the public fascination with the Gotti trial, and we see how captivated Tommy and Rosie are, but instead of watching the relationship between emulation and action unfold, the impetus of these robberies goes back to an Uva family altercation with the mob, that results in tragedy. And really, the “revenge” plot never resolves itself and the whole side story involving the Uva family is made to sit there awkwardly on the sidelines when it really didn’t need to be in the game.
The performances in the film are, for the most part, a saving grace. The chemistry between Pitt and Arianda is what gives the film the option of being a rather compelling Bonnie and Clyde remix (if it decided that’s what it wanted to be). Pitt has the tendency to go a little too over the top “Bronx” at times, but Tony Award-winner Nina Arianda shines as Rosie, whose self-possessed wit, charm, and confidence carry just about every scene. Andy Garcia is also notable as Big Al, a man who would rather find himself in the kitchen of his restaurant than the top of the pecking order. Yet another interesting thread left to dangle.
When you have so many good options, decisions are hard to make. Rob the Mob takes the route of combining favorites and hoping they mesh into a complete story. Sometimes it’s forgivable, but this film needed a sharper focus and it may have resulted in a more compelling, and less familiar tale.
Rob the Mob opens today at the Ritz Bourse.
Author: Jill Malcolm
Jill is happiest attending midnight screenings with other crazy film fans at her local theater. Her other passions include reading, traveling to faraway places, cat videos, pugs, and jalapeño peppers. She is co-founder of the blog Filmhash.