It’s hard to make a big, sprawling gangster epic in 2020. Anyone delving into that genre evokes the twin titans of Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese, particularly given the latter’s titanic achievement with The Irishman last year and Coppola’s upcoming rejig of The Godfather Part III. Undeterred, though, by the imposing shadows of those made men, Quebecois filmmaker Daniel Grou has constructed a lumbering, gargantuan mob tale set in 1990s Montreal with Mafia Inc. The result is solid, if unspectacular.
Montreal kingpin Frank Paterno (Sergio Castellitto) is on the verge of going straight. He’s trying to bring together as much of his cash as possible to invest in the long-mooted bridge over the Strait of Messina, connecting his ancestral home of Sicily to the Italian mainland. With the help of his son Giaco (Donny Falsetti), he has brokered a peace among local gangs and his other son Patrizio (Michael Ricci) is about to get married to Sofie (Mylène Mackay). However, Sofie’s loose cannon brother Vince (Marc-André Grondin) has done something vile – and the consequences could be huge.
The stage is set for a colossal tussle between warring factions and between brothers, or at least those whose bond is so close it might as well be fraternal. There’s a lot of people being kissed gently on the head, either as a symbol of trust and love or as a harbinger of their forthcoming demise. Every gangster movie trope is present and correct, with only Grou’s stylish and appealing direction keeping the movie as entertaining and watchable as it transpires to be.
Castellitto’s performance is a stable anchor at the heart of the entire movie. He’s surprisingly benevolent for a brutal gangland emperor, described in one scene as “the Godfather of the Canadian mafia”. As with so many cinematic Dons, Frank is absolutely as devoted to his family as he is to maintaining the equilibrium of his empire. His calm is disarming, making the moments in which he does blow up hit even harder, and he simply refuses to get his hands dirty.
Just as interesting is the push-and-pull between Falsetti and Grondin as Frank’s real son and his de facto son respectively. Falsetti bristles with entitlement as the presumed heir of the family business, while Grondin is a ruthless loose cannon, prepared to fight for the affections of Frank to the extent that Giaco is seemingly on the verge of being shunted out. However, when the true meaning of shocking early scenes set in Venezuela is revealed, this lights the touchpaper on a chaotic inner war that threatens everything.
It would be wrong to suggest that Mafia Inc. is in any way revolutionary and there’s certainly something of a plod to its two-hour-plus running time, which unfolds at a deliberate pace. It’s an interesting, colourful world in which multi-lingual characters routinely switch between French, Italian and English and there’s certainly intrigue surrounding the betrayals, manoeuvrings and the inevitable law enforcement net closing in around these people.
However, there’s little in Grou’s workmanlike approach to break free of the classics that have come before. Mackay’s very interesting character – placed in a difficult predicament of divided loyalties as the movie goes on – is unforgivably sidelined for huge tracts of the movie in favour of the usual archetypes. It also culminates in a pretty standard shootout, which fails to get the pulse-raising. Mafia Inc. is always watchable, but seldom anything more than that.
Dir: Daniel Grou
Scr: Sylvain Guy
Cast: Marc-André Grondin, Sergio Castellitto, Donny Falsetti, Mylène Mackay, Gilbert Sicotte, Toni Ellwand, Michael Ricci
Prd: Antonello Cozzolino, Valérie d’Auteuil, André Rouleau
DOP: Steve Cosens
Music: Laurence Lafond-Beaulne, Joseph Marchand, Camille Poliquin
Run time: 145 minutes
Mafia Inc. is available on digital download in the UK now.