Weighted down with its own importance and its own insights into how governmental indifference oils the machinery of the drug trade, THE PALERMO CONNECTION plays like a slide show about the horrors of godfathering.
Volatile man of the people Carmine Bonavia's public relations poll about legalizing drugs launches him on a dangerous course, although he instigates it merely as an attention-getting gimmick. Meanwhile, after an interview with Italian journalist Gianna Magnardi (Carolina Rosi), Bonavia begins
wondering about his Sicilian roots. But somehow the political squeaks he's making about destroying drug trafficking reach the ears of the head of the Sicilian Mafia (Joss Ackland). Naturally, Bonvia's campaign manager warns him to drop the hot issue; naturally his papa warns him to forget Palermo;
naturally, this hard-head whisks off his new bride Carrie (Mimi Rogers) to his homeland.
In Palermo, the evil is so thick you can cut it with a machete; it wafts in like the scent of out-of-season jasmine that keeps getting dispatched to Bonavia's bride. What the thick-skulled, irrationally jealous Carmine doesn't realize is that the Mafioso intends to play on his weaknesses and ruin
his reputation. Driving him to distraction, they first tempt him with a Sophia Loren clone. When lust fails, they drive the jealous Carmine loony with incessant flower deliveries that cause him to attack the young flower-seller. But who actually stabs the kid? Can you guess? In the hotel where the
couple is honeymooning, Carmine encounters the Prince (Vittorio Gassman), a sad example of someone who once irritated the blackhanders and now has to order room service for life and never leave the hotel.
Framed for murder (they make sure the boy doesn't recuperate from his wounds) Carmine goes to see the capo, who offers him a deal: return home, be a typically corrupt politico and look the other way, or languish in a Sicilian jail until the Mafia kills him. Deciding to be pragmatic, Bonavia
accepts the deal. Yet, during a ground-breaking ceremony for a rehab center in New York City, Carmine changes his mind. Refusing to merely shovel some dirt on a problem that won't go away, he makes a brave stand. A bullet rings out; the Mafia wins again.
What can one say about a film that continually pauses for glimpses of Sicilian scenery until one wonders if it was co-produced by the Sicilian Chamber of Commerce? Instead of utilizing these stunning locales to prove anything, THE PALERMO CONNECTION is more like THREE COINS IN PALERMO, a
travelogue about pretty places in the grip of the Mafia.
An even bigger blunder is the poor development of the leading character, a mistake compounded by entrusting this tragic hero into the fumbling paws of Jim Belushi, who lacks the subtlety to prevent Carmine from coming across as an unremitting jerk. Being impassioned is one thing; registering as
foolhardy and reckless is another. Despite stellar work from supporting players like Gassman and Ackland, THE PALERMO CONNECTION never piques us intellectually or viscerally. Instead of drawing us into Carmine's dilemma, the film alternates between outright stagnancy as more tourist attractions
glide by pointlessly, and over-heated action as Bonavia runs around like a bull in a china shop.
As a result of THE PALERMO CONNECTION's lack of dramatic sharpness, we don't care about the film's earnest attempts to raise our political consciousness. Surely, the syndrome of government complicity with the Mob could have been developed in a way that wouldn't lull viewers into complacency. If,
instead of preaching its message, the filmmaker had dramatized the no-win situation adequately, we might not have moved any closer to solving the drug problem, but we would have been a bit closer to good cinema.
Like a propaganda pill that induces sleepiness, THE PALERMO CONNECTION will not win any converts to its conspiracy theorizing; alternately boring and irritating, it's a political thriller in which the excitement never starts and the local color never stops. (Excessive violence, profanity,nudity.)
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Weighted down with its own importance and its own insights into how governmental indifference oils the machinery of the drug trade, THE PALERMO CONNECTION plays like a slide show about the horrors of godfathering. Volatile man of the people Carmine Bonav… (more)