The mobster Jackie DiNorscio is shot by his own cousin at home while in probation but survives. Later he is arrested dealing drugs and sentenced to thirty years in prison. The prosecutor Sean Kierney proposes a deal to Jackie, immediately releasing him if he testifies against the Lucchese family and other mafia families but Jackie does not accept to rat his friends that he loves. When the trial begins, he asks the judge Finestein to defend himself without the assistance of a lawyer. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When You're Smiling (The Whole World Smiles with You)
Written by Mark Fisher, Joe Goodwin and Larry Shay
Used by permission of EMI Mills Music, Inc.
Performed by Louis Prima
Courtesy of Capitol Records
Under License from EMI Film & Television Music See more »
When I first heard of Sidney Lumet's unorthodox casting lead for this film, I was intrigued because Van Diesel's selection was indeed a daring move. There was little doubt Lumet would err, and he has truly come up with a sensational film and presented us with an outstanding turn by Diesel. The film would have worked and been at least a decent movie because of Lumet's expertise. Getting Diesel to take command of the screen, channel the spirit of the infamous defendant to ultimately convince the audience in both the movie and the theater audience that we were witnessing a rather unique individual.
The success of the film hangs on every single line that Diesel delivers. There is conviction and sincerity in his delivery. Here is a character that has a tarnished background, ultimately finds an outlet for a new perspective in life, and runs with it. Eventually, we get to discover he is a more powerful force than we expected.
Lumet once again shapes the film with his assured hand, allowing the actors to shine in their respective roles, not interfering with dialog that is practically taken from original transcripts by adding over-dramatic touches or unnecessary inspirational music. There are long silences when we are allowed to reflect on what is taking place in front of us. We see a situation change, witness how the players moves are changed because of unexpected twists in the story, and never is the intensity of true emotions and the power of relationships diluted by a false note. There is a superb scene between Diesel and his ex wife, in a great performance by Sciorra that is both incredibly moving and sexy. These are real people with overpowering feelings and passionate exchanges, and it all comes through because of these two performers' chemistry and electrifying delivery.
This is a film that will probably divide its audiences, depending on what you think of the defendant and his connections, but most people will probably agree that a star has been born, and with the support of a masterful director, we can see that he deserves to have a long and fruitful career in front of him. Many people heaped praise on Hoffman not too long ago. I felt Diesel outdid Hoffman because this time the gimmick and the make up felt apart by the soulful approach of a real actor.
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