Brooklyn Rules

Director: Michael Corrente

As a part Italian film buff, I grew up with the family tradition of watching The Godfather trilogy every single year. To my family, it’s not a film about the mafia; it’s a film about family that uses the mafia as a Shakespearean and operatic backdrop. This being said, sometimes I’m accused of looking to Coppola’s epic far too often but in regards to this film, I think it’s not only warranted but it’s damn near impossible to watch Brooklyn Rules without comparing it to other mob films especially The Godfather. Yes, The Godfather—not just because Brooklyn stars Scott Caan who is the spitting image of his father James and in this film Scott plays a character very similar to his dad’s Sonny Corleone but also because the other two main characters in the film recall the other Corleone brothers Michael and Fredo and one is even named Michael. Although penned by Sopranos writer Terence Winter and often compared to De Niro’s A Bronx Tale, this film chronicles the story of three tight knit Brooklyn friends whose lives change during the fateful year of 1985 as they struggle with decisions involving loyalty and love. Freddie Prinze Jr. manages to wipe all of his bad 90’s teen movies from our memory with his portrayal of Michael, the attractive and intelligent Columbia student who, nearing graduation uses a cocky narration to tell of his artistry in scamming his way through essays and his goal to attend law school and get out of his doomed environment where far too many of his neighbors are ending up involved in the escalating crime wars that result in the bold, infamous murder of Gambino boss Paul Castellano by Gotti’s men on December 16. After he meets beautiful Ellen (Mena Suvari playing a Kay Corleone like WASP), Michael feels the strain in his relationship with the friends he considers brothers—womanizing Carmine (Scott Caan), who grew up idolizing local mobster Caesar Manganaro and has started to become involved in this thing of theirs and Jerry Ferrara as Bobby, the sweet but slightly slow friend whose goals are far les ambitious and consist of marrying his longtime girlfriend and becoming a postal worker. While Bobby is the butt of many jokes in regards to his frugal spending and movie musical knowledge, those of us who have seen too many mob movies know exactly what’s going to happen to him but Winter’s clever script breaks our hearts all the same and as Mick La Salle said in his San Francisco Chronicle review that when it comes to accurately depicting life in Brooklyn, Corrente’s film can be added “to the short list of movies that get it right.” While the narration near the beginning sets us up for what we believe is going to be a B movie—some of the dialogue seems to be a nostalgic crib of GoodFellas, the film works because we believe the relationship we’re seeing between the three men, not only when trying to sort out the rest of their lives but also in the lighter moments such as a hilarious and eye-opening analysis by Caan as he debates the logic of the end of Zemeckis’ Back to the Future with Prinze.