10th & Wolf

Though loosely based on the experiences of real-life undercover Mafia mole John Ligati, CRASH (2005) screenwriter Robert Moresco's feature-directing debut was sold on the reputation of Ligati's FBI partner, Joseph D. "Donnie Brasco" Pistone. Kuwait, 1991: As a result of one rebellious gesture, Philadelphia-based Marine sergeant Tommy Santoro (James Marsden)...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Though loosely based on the experiences of real-life undercover Mafia mole John Ligati, CRASH (2005) screenwriter Robert Moresco's feature-directing debut was sold on the reputation of Ligati's FBI partner, Joseph D. "Donnie Brasco" Pistone. Kuwait, 1991: As a result of one rebellious gesture, Philadelphia-based Marine sergeant Tommy Santoro (James Marsden) throws away his military career and faces serious jail time. FBI agents Horvath (Brian Dennehy) and Thornton (Leo Rossi) offer a way out: There's a gang war brewing in Philadelphia between the local Italian-American wise guys — including Santoro's mentally challenged brother, Vincent (Brad Renfro), and their hotheaded cousin, Joey (Giovanni Ribisi), whose parents raised the brothers after their own parents died — and Sicilian crime lord Luciano Reggio (Francesco Salvi), sent from the old country to take over operations in Pennsylvania. If Tommy will go undercover and help the FBI bring down Reggio and the gangster who killed the FBI's last snitch, Willy (Ken Garito), the feds will go easy on Joey and Vincent. Torn between residual loyalty to the Mafia code of silence and fear for his cousin and, especially, Vincent, Tommy agrees to infiltrate his own family. He moves back in with his sexy Aunt Tina (Lesley Ann Warren) and partners with Joey, who runs a thriving drug business from the the strip club he owns with the murderously hot-tempered Junior (Dash Mihok). Joey, whose loyalty to family and old friends from the neighborhood is absolute, has also just hired local girl Brandy (Piper Perabo) as a bartender; her husband, Willy the informer, has been missing for weeks and she strongly suspects he's dead, but has no idea that Junior murdered him. Tommy and Brandy's blossoming romance further complicates an already volatile situation. "Inspired by the true-life accounts of FBI special agent Joseph D. Pistone," with whom Moresco has a history that includes the 2000 TV series Falcone and the 2006 play The Way of the Wiseguy, and written by Morosco and Falcone screenwriter Allan Steele (Chazz Palminteri did an uncredited rewrite), this brutal, convoluted crime drama offers little other than the Philadelphia setting to distinguish it from dozens of other Mafia movies. The narrative is cluttered with backstory (some characters, including Dennis Hopper's "Matty" Matello, appear only in flashback), and the endless digressions overwhelm the efforts of a generally strong cast that includes cameos by Val Kilmer and by Ligati as one of Reggio's foot soldiers.

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