Tommy Santoro’s (James Marsden) disillusionment with his own family--Dad was a mob enforcer who was shot down in front of the house--leads him to join the Marines but when the Gulf War ends with Saddam still in power Tommy flips and ends up in the brig. An FBI agent (Brian Dennehy) offers him his only way out of a multi-year sentence: Return to the Philly neighborhood he grew up in and inform on his mobbed-up cousin Joey (Giovanni Ribisi). Tommy is dismayed to find that his young brother Vincent (Brad Renfro) is also now in the life. Tommy ends up romancing Brandy (Piper Perabo) a girl he grew up with now widowed and working at Joey’s nightclub. Finally rid of Cyclops’ signature shades it’s nice to see more of X-Men’s Marsden than killer cheekbones and pursed lips including some finely honed dramatic chops. Renfro’s character is supposed to be on the slow side it seems although it’s not quite clear why that is. Ribisi as the hair-trigger tempered Joey doesn’t quite have the gravitas or necessary psychosis to intimidate. In fact all of the cast seem a bit on the young side which lends an unwelcome air of kids-playing-dress-up to the proceedings. With dark hair and a perpetually guarded expression Perabo is nearly unrecognizable as that same blonde who shook her thing on top of the bar in Coyote Ugly--although her casting does invite an unintentional snigger or two when she informs a horny patron that “the bartenders don’t dance.” Cameos by Dennis Hopper (as Tommy’s dad) Val Kilmer (as a drunk grieving his Marine son) and Tommy Lee (as “Jimmy Tats ” an overeager bouncer) are more distracting than meaningful. Writer/director Bobby Moresco (one half of the Crash writing team) proves he’s no Scorsese. The film boasts some striking cinematography and moody lighting and sparks to life whenever things turn violent. But as is often the case in mob dramas connections between characters aren’t clear. Character interaction remains on the murky side as well. Tommy chews Joey out for allowing brother Vincent to get involved in his mob dealings but no one questions Tommy’s reentry into the life. While we feel for Tommy’s dilemma Moresco fails to build sympathy or interest for other characters so by the time the final showdown occurs you won’t much care who lives and who dies.
Though it's some 3,000 miles away from Hollywood, South Florida still shone bright with stars as it got a chance to honor a few movie greats--as well as one in the making.
The 8th Annual Palm Beach International Film Festival, which runs April 3-10, held its Grand Gala Saturday to hand out a lifetime achievement award to producer Robert Evans, the Legend Award to silent movie actress Fay Wray, and bestow the Outstanding Performance of the Year award to Adrien Brody for his Best Actor Oscar-winning performance in The Pianist as Holocaust survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman.
The Best Actor Reacts
Adrien Brody--who put himself squarely in the spotlight with his heartfelt Oscar acceptance speech calling for world peace and sending prayers to the men fighting overseas, including his friend Tom--seemed to be taking his newfound celebrity in stride.
"I've been laying low, actually," he admitted. "Prior to the Academy Awards, I had traveled the world with [The Pianist]. So, I just kind of wanted to relax a little. I really haven't been out socializing much. I'm sort of unwinding and it's a wonderful time."
Asked how his life had changed since winning, Brody responded, "Well, just about everyone knows who I am now! I've been acting for 17 years but I spend five minutes on television and suddenly, I'm a star overnight. It's a tremendous honor to me. I'm grateful but I'm also focused on finding my next creative endeavor to embark on. That's my priority."
Brody also said that he had heard from his soldier buddy. "I've heard from him. I've heard from a number of journalists regarding him. He's heard from a number of journalists. His parents has heard from a number of journalists and have been ordered to do Access Hollywood," he not so subtly joked.
"It's kind of fantastic because I didn't expect all that. I just wanted to acknowledge someone that was close to me," Brody continued. "It's something we all need to acknowledge, regardless of our feelings about the war. I felt that night was a particular night where [the men fighting overseas] needed to feel at home and have some kind of encouragement."
And what about that kiss he gave screen siren Halle Berry? "There's been plenty of repercussions. I can't get into all of that right now, but…" he laughed. "I guess I used some of the passion in my own life in that moment. It was an exciting moment."
Silent Star Talks
Asked how she felt about being a Hollywood legend, the 96-year-old Fay Wray replied, "Is that what I am?"
Wray started out in silent films, most notably Erich von Stroheim's 1928 The Wedding March. After making her claim to fame as the object of a giant ape's affections in the original 1933 King Kong, Wray went on to do Broadway as well as star in several B movies, retiring from screen acting for good in the 1950s.
The actress had some kind things to say about director Peter Jackson's plans to remake her classic ape film. "I think it's wonderful because I think he is a man of special talent. I understand he wants to do a remake of the film great justice," she said.
Whom did she think could play her part? "I have no idea. I wouldn't want to see anyone take that part away from me!"
She was clearly touched by the show of support and wanted to thank everyone for remembering her and her career. "Film is a very important in the world today and it's a joy to be part of any film that has an endurance."
A Star Producer
Robert Evans, whose film The Kid Stays in the Picture opened the festival April 3, also said he felt proud to have contributed to such a worthy art form. "Very few people realize that American film is No. 1 in every country in the world," the producer said. "That's impressive. I am proud that our flag flies around the world through our art."
The 73-year-old producer's next career move, after producing the hit romantic comedy How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days, might come as a surprise to some, but he hardly bats an eye.
"I might be the only person in Hollywood history who started his career out as a studio head and ended his career as an animated cartoon," he said, referring to a new Comedy Central series being developed that is inspired by The Kid Stays in the Picture, revolving around his life.
A number of Hollywood stars helped the honorees celebrate the evening's festivities, including director Brett Ratner (Red Dragon), comedian Chris Tucker and Michael Jackson, who has been friends with Evans for many years. Producer-director Suzanne DeLaurentiis (A Month of Sundays) was also honored with the Founder's Award for her support of the West Palm Beach film community.
Some of the films being featured at this year's festival include the indie Better Luck Tomorrow and The Good Thief, starring Nick Nolte.
In addition to offering a diverse selection of films, documentaries and shorts in competition, the PBIFF is known for opening up the world of filmmaking to young people just starting out with their annual Student Showcase of Films.
Brody believes such festivals add an important element to the art of filmmaking.
"Film festivals are wonderful outlets for filmmakers to show their work, "he said. "I think it's important from for filmmakers to follow their hearts and more young people should be encouraged to express their creativity."