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Bonanno: A Godfather's Story (1999)

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The true life story of mafia boss Joesph Bonanno. The story spans from Bonanno's early beginings in Italy, to his conquests in America.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Guido Grasso Jr. ...
Peter Maggadino
Joseph Bonanno (Ages 17-27)
Joseph Bonanno (Ages 35-61)
Salvatore Bonanno
Salvatore Maranzano
Vito DeFilippo ...
Gaspar DiGregario (Young)
Domenico Fiore ...
Gaspar DiGregario (Older) (as Dom Fiore)
Bill Bonanno
Aldo Tirelli ...
Bastiano Buster Domingo
John Tartamella
Jessica Welch ...
Fanny Labruzzo (Young)
Fanny Labruzzo (Older)
Antonio Maltese ...
Italian Naval Cadet
Vito Rezza ...
Uncle Frank Labruzzo


The true life story of mafia boss Joesph Bonanno. The story spans from Bonanno's early beginings in Italy, to his conquests in America.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Inside the heart and mind of the Mafia.


Crime | Drama


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Release Date:

25 July 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Family: The Life and Times of Joseph Bonanno  »

Filming Locations:


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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film is based on real life mafia don Joseph "bananas" bonanno. See more »


In the classroom of the institute in Palarmo it was said the Odysses' ship was the Argo. The Argo was Perseus's ship not Odysses's. See more »


Charlie 'Lucky' Luciano: You can't make money with a gun in your hand.
See more »

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User Reviews

Solid entertainment that needed less cheap thrills and more narrative polish.
26 September 2006 | by See all my reviews

Hollywood has turned the Mafia in to a production line of output ranging from the banal to the excellent and despite some good acting and a reasonable script (much of which is - for a change - true!) this "home entertainment" effort has to fall slap bang in the middle.

The script is not only obvious (all of the checklist boxes end up being ticked), but spends a lot of time trying to create a pastiche of the best of other people's work. The Godfather being the most obvious, but there are other references too. I won't bother naming them. Nevertheless it is a good taste borrower! The producer seems to set a quota for gunshots and murder (one at least every twenty minutes?) and the ending is weak and "so what?" I am told there are various versions of this production so that maybe that is just the version I have seen.

Gangsters don't make money they take money. Usually by fear. Some seem more in to the murder and mayhem side of the business than making money. They were the ones that were the first to go (in real life and here). "You can't make money with a gun in your hand" says Charlie 'Lucky' Luciano at one stage. One of the smarter gangsters, although all things are relative. He was a skilled white slave trader and a drug dealer before being bundled home to Italy.

The old school "moustached Pete's" were picked off by the new bloods who wanted the power and the money for themselves and to break free of the straight jacket of Italian/Sicilian power (rarely doing business outside themselves). The young Turk knew they needed to be allied with other groups (most notably "the Jews" who knew how to launder money) and this is at least referenced and acknowledged. What isn't made so clear is that most immigrant groups had their own Mafia's - but most of them made their money and went legit. And why not? Who wants to die in jail?

Joseph Bonanno was a ruthless man prepared to kill if needs be , but not an unfair or stupid one. His story was tragic in that he could have made money in the over ground world and he showed a special skill in avoiding getting killed. With a little bit of luck attached, naturally.

Despite the range of respectable names and three actors in the title role (Bruce Ramsay, Martin Landau and Tony Nardi) there isn't the charisma or the talent to bring us in and feel anything. We are - merely - passive observers in a life we are glad not to have lead. The people shown here were born in to a cruel world but their only mark was to make it crueler.

If you can't get enough of the gangster genre that will be better than watching Godfather 1 & 2 for the tenth time and it is even better -- as basic entertainment -- than the horrible misfire that was Godfather 3.

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