A Guide to recognizing Your Goodfellas
For those who enjoyed "Goodfellas" but some how found it too heavy there is "Brooklyn Rules" a mob movie which seems to draw on various mob movie cliches and combine it with a coming of age storyline with touches of "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" about it. Does it work? Well "Brooklyn Rules" doesn't stink but from accents to casting to numerous cliches elements it does nothing more than just about entertain. It almost becomes a movie where you do other things whilst it is on because it rarely strays from being familiar.
Michael (Freddie Prinze Jr. - Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed), Bobby (Jerry Ferrara) and Carmine (Scott Caan - Into the Blue) have been best friends since childhood and now as young adults very little has changed as they still hang out and wind each other up. But for Michael he has ambition, he wants to get out of Brooklyn and go to law school whilst for Carmine he has always admired the wise guys they saw on the streets and is now trying to get in with local boss Caesar (Alec Baldwin), whilst Bobby, he just wants a regular life, a secure job and to be able to marry his sweetheart. But with Carmine being involved in the mob the others struggle to stay out of it and when following the death of a mob boss a war breaks out Michael and Bobby find themselves drawn into Carmine's world.
In fairness I think writer Terence Winter has done a reasonable job of coming up with a coming of age mob movie, it's not original as there is a lot of familiarity and cliche going on but it works. It works because are trio of friends whilst different in wants are believable as friends, buddies who have each others back. It is that, the friendship more than the scrapes with trouble or the realisation that they want different things in life which keeps it entertaining.
But unfortunately "Brooklyn Rules" does end up feeling derivative because not only is the mob genre so popular but all the elements are cliches done before. So we have Michael wanting to get out of Brooklyn a similar idea was used in "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints". Then we have Carmine idolising the gangsters and Caesar and I could mention "Goodfellas" or "A Bronx Tale". And as the story plays out as the friends find trouble coming their way it draws on other cliches from these movies and similar ones. It doesn't automatically mean that "Brooklyn Rules" is bad but you end up watching it and thinking well that idea came from that movie.
Now here is the sticky point, the casting and you have Scott Caan and Alec Baldwin over emphasising their characters to make them into almost mob caricatures which end up a bit cheesy. Jerry Ferrara as Bobby thankfully is much better and whilst over doing his characters quirks at least feels for the most natural as if he is for the most playing a guy similar to himself. But then we have Freddie Prinze Jr. as Michael and an accent which I don't know whether is authentic or not but is both inconsistent and grating. It is a shame because in a way Freddie is well cast as Michael, believable as the hard working young man who wants more from his life but you just can't believe him when it comes to the rough Brooklyn side of his character.
What this all boils down to is that "Brooklyn Rules" isn't terrible but it is a movie which feels completely derivative and as such is a movie which struggles to keep hold of your attention as it combines a variety of cliches. But when it comes to mob based movies it comes way down the list with various issues such as casting and accents letting it down.