1985. The most powerful of the five New York Mafia families, the Gambino family, is filled with unrest. Following the appointment by Carlo Gambino of his cousin and brother-in-law Paul Castellano as his successor in the late 1970s, the family has split into two camps. The Manhattan faction remains loyal to Aniello Dellacroce, an old time underboss they think should have become the new Don. The Brooklyn faction sides with Castellano. One of the premiere movers and shakers in the Manhattan camp is John Gotti, soon to become possibly the most well-known Mafioso since Al Capone, after organising the assassination of Castellano.This is the backdrop against which Brooklyn Rules is set, but it is most definitely not a mob picture. It’s a story about friendship. Specifically it's about the friendship between Michael, Carmine, and Bobby, who are first introduced in 1975 sitting in church, where Michael steals from the collection plate, before the boys sneak out, for their first encounter with the violent side of Brooklyn life. They discover the corpse of an executed wiseguy sitting in his car, shot twice in the head. Michael keeps his gun, Carmine takes his cigarette lighter, and Bobby takes home a puppy they find in the back seat.Flash forward ten years. Michael has scammed his way into Columbia University hoping to become a lawyer (his self-confessed lack of a conscience makes this profession a perfect fit, he says), Carmine is looking for respect, money, and power by working for the local Mafia capo Caesar Manganaro, and Bobby just wants to get a job with the post office, marry his girlfriend and settle down. But the fallout from the Gambino family war is destined to affect all three of them.Director Michael Corrente gets wonderful performances from his cast. Freddie Prinze Jr. is a revelation as Michael, giving the performance of his career. I hope this marks the start of a career revival – he proves here that he has far too much acting talent to be wasted in roles like Scooby Doo’s Fred. Scott Caan plays the vain wiseguy-wannabe Carmine to perfection and it’s impossible to watch him without being reminded (in a good way) of his father's Sonny Corleone. Jerry Ferrara (in a complete departure from his Entourage role) is totally convincing as Bobby, the sweet-natured, unambitious heart of the group. Alec Baldwin is as good here as he was in The Departed (for me, he very nearly stole that film). By turns charming, charismatic, and psychotic, he makes every second of his limited time on screen count. Mena Suvari struggles to make much of an impact in the under-written role of Michael’s high society girlfriend, and there’s a brief but extremely funny turn from Robert Turano as Bobby’s father.Sopranos writer/producer Terence Winter has filled his screenplay with marvelous scenes. All of the dialogue is top notch — funny, touching, and always convincing. The relationship of the three friends is portrayed in such a believable and uncontrived way that you are sucked into their story. This sense of reality is another of the film's many strengths. The pacing is pretty near perfect. There are some very funny moments, some very violent moments (mostly shown offscreen), and more than anything else, there are lots of moments which make you wish you had three friends like these.This is the kind of film that comes along very rarely nowadays. Character driven, shot on location with none of what’s come to be known as the MTV style of hyperkinetic quick cuts and goofy camera angles, it remains true to its characters throughout. Kudos to all concerned for producing the most entertaining film I’ve seen this year. I urge you to go and see it.
"A sinister cabal of superior writers."