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This film is based on a real story of a century ago that probably is not in any of the New Orleans tourist brochures. Thirty thousand Italians were brought into New Orleans between the end of the Civil War and 1890 as a source of cheap labor to work on the docks and in the farm produce market. There is real money to be made and some of the most powerful men in the city resent the wealth of two Italians who have given their countrymen an incentive to be very productive. The police chief who won't go along with a takeover plot hatched by the mayor and the men who have put the mayor in power is assassinated. A group of Italians who are in the wrong place at the wrong time and the two wealthy Italian businessmen are framed. After the courtroom drama, there is an even more dramatic finale.
Although it has one of the more depressing endings ever filmed (and I
normally don't like that kind of thing), I was unable to stop watching it.
The story, no doubt simplified for the screen, was engaging and has me
interested in seeking out Gambino's book to get the broader picture as well
as the facts. :) Christopher Walken's accent was a tad iffy, but he wasn't
the main attraction of the film. The collection of players were extremely
well-balanced so that everyone had a chance to do their stuff and be
memorable and they were! Darragh O'Malley as the Irish investigator was a
pleasure to see after the days of Sharpe's Rifles and Joaquim de Almeida
likewise captured interest with his diginified performance. Bruce Davison
and Edward Herrmann as the warring attornies were also solid and
interesting. I completely enjoyed this film.
The story is great, and the actors are very good too. I guess I like the story more than the acting. Though it has no happy ending, but it feels real. Wonderful movie.
No wonder this movie was never exhibited in theaters, after all, who would
believe a Hollywood movie plot that doesn't portray Italians as belonging to
the mafia? This movie is a good reminder that every group that has ever
existed has had its problems and it's persecutors, and that the animosity
usually boils down to economic reasons. Every group has something to be
resentful about, the successful ones are those that put the past behind them
and look to the future.
I do have trouble with the title though, unless of course it was meant as an
ironic title, since there was no Vendetta in the main plot.
Christopher Waken stands out with another great performance, he is totally
believable in his role, and his acting doesn't disappoint.
This movie could have been much better if it hadn't brushed over the personal lives of the characters, but I think the filmmakers had to decide on whether to concentrate on the factual story or an in depth character study of the immigrant experience. Had they decided to pursue both in this case it probably would have made an excellent mini-series
A very good made-for-TV-movie.
A great cast , some good performances, but above all, a great story. As is almost always the case, the best stories are the true stories, the ones that actually occurred. Often they exceed our imagination, as is the case with this one. Hadn't I known that this was a true story, I would have deemed the plot to be far fetched, unrealistic... Goes to say...
Watch this film if you can, it will teach you a little about the past and how some great fortunes where made at that time, the movie is definitely worth it.
I loved the movie! It had a great story behind it, and the acting was terrific! As a member of the City of Kingston, I was proud to have lived in the city during the filming period! but then again, thats just my opinion, go rent it, and judge it for yourself, not everyone has the same taste in movies. I was absolutly Superb! Enjoy the show!
African Americans were not the only group lynched in the US. In the
1890s, there were six lynchings of Italians, three of them in
Louisiana. This is the story of one such lynching in New Orleans.
After the emancipation in 1865, the power in New Orleans imported Sicilians to replace the African American. After a time, they came to regret this decision, as the Italian population grew to about 30,000 by 1890. They, particularly James Huston (Christopher Walken), set about trying to play the two factions of Sicilians (the Machecas and the Provenzanos) against each other.
It should be noted that politically correct terminology is not used for the two races.
Since the Sheriff (Andrew Connolly) wouldn't go along with the Mayor (Kenneth Welsh) and the other leaders, he was disposed of. Another policeman (Luke Askew) reported that "dagos" did it and riots ensued. Six men were pointed out by a "witness" that was intimidated by the police.
A "trial" was held, but the results weren't what the town expected, so they took matters into their own hands, stirred up by the Mayor with threats by Huston that it will be done "with you or without you." Of course, many more were murdered in the real event that took place, but this is a movie.
Huston got what he wanted.
Vendetta is a tough film to watch without feeling sadness and outrage, but such is the stuff that HBO churns out, honest pieces of history that sting you with their refusal to honey coat or gloss over the nasty details (I'm looking at you, History Channel). This one takes place in 1890 New York City, a time of mass Irish and Italian immigration which spurred a ton of unrest among those already settled and raised in that area. Everyone is fighting tooth and nail for a piece of the pie and a chance to feed their families, and the ones with a bunch of pie just greedily want more. The influx of Italians is a cause for insidious worry for James Houston (Christopher Walken), an obscenely wealthy and deeply corrupt piece of schit. He's joined by equally nasty William Parkinson (Luke Askew), and Mayor Joe Shakespeare (Kenneth Welsh), as the trio cook up an evil scheme to implicate a few young Italian men in the mysterious death of a sympathetic and kindly Irish police chief (Clancy Brown). This sets in motion a tragic outbreak of riots and and angry acts of violence against the Italians. Even their union representitive Joseph Macheca (Joaquim De Almeida) cannot bring peace or stop what Walken and team have started. You may think why make a film of this, as it heads straight for the bleakest of resolutions, but I think it's important to shine a light on even the darkest patches of history, in order to understand the levels of deception and human cruelty so that we may see it coming before it's too late next time around. This was a terrible, terrible event and the film hits you square in the face with it's blunt truth and unwavering honesty. Kudos to HBO fpr taking it on. Watch for the late Edward Herrmann and Bruce Davison as rival lawyers in the chaos.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The lynched were likely innocent of the crime. I have read most of the secondary writings about this event, and this is a fairly balanced movie. One should not be so quick to state that the movie is biased. Richard Gambino might have added a little to the police chief's character, but the chief was an ambitious man. A lot happened before this incident. Also, the drive-by shooting happened in reverse. The real shooting involved people driving by and shooting into a building and not the other way around. The earliest writers made the lynched out to be mafia men and black hand men, but since the 1970s... writers have changed their opinion based on better research.
Theodore Roosevelt was contemptuous of races and nations he considered
inferior. When a mob in New Orleans lynched a number of Italian
immigrants, Roosevelt thought the United States should offer the
Italian government some remuneration, but privately he wrote his sister
that he thought the lynching was "rather a good thing" and told her he
had said as much at a dinner with "various dago diplomats . . . all
wrought up by the lynching."
This was the attitude of America in 1891. The New York Times on March 14, 1891, published an article describing the events in this film with the following headline: CHIEF HENNESSY AVENGED; ELEVEN OF HIS Italian ASSASSINS LYNCHED BY A MOB. The attitude of the whites in New Orleans can best be summed up by the comments from one businessman, "I would rather have a thousand Chinamen, than one Italian.
This information is critical to understanding the movie, the truth of which is well documented. It was not just African Americans that suffered lynching after the Civil War, many Italians suffered the same fate across the country, but mostly in the South.
Timothy Prager's script hewed very closely to Richard Gambino's book. The performances were outstanding, particularly Christopher Walken, Joaquim de Almeida, and Clancy Brown, in the short time he was on screen. Alessandro Colla and Megan McChesney provided a romantic distraction amid the chaos. This was their only screen roles, and they did very well.
I am grateful to Alan DiFiore, Mark Israe,Sue Jett,Gary Lucchesi,Tony Mark, Nicholas Pileggi, and Gary A. Randall for making this important film.
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