Vin Diesel hams it up in Sidney Lumet's mafia courtroom drama, which still feels tired, even on DVD.
Find Me Guilty
After The Godfathers, after GoodFellas, after The Sopranos, what else can we say about mobsters? Once we've seen Tony waddle out to get the paper in his robe, is there anything left in this bag of tricks?
Find Me Guilty is the latest effort to pull a fresh rabbit out of the battered hat: It mixes the mob formula with courtroom drama, surprisingly casts Vin Diesel as the lead mobster, and makes him comical--"I'm not a gangster, I'm a gagster," as he puts it.
Like GoodFellas, it takes its inspiration from a true story: the longest criminal trial in history, in which 20 gangsters wound up acquitted of 76 charges after almost two years on trial. Diesel plays Jackie DiNorscio, a loyal mob soldier who defended himself with wisecracks and plainspoken cross-examinations designed to endear himself to the jury.
Diesel is disarmingly charming and sympathetic, even if he sometimes seems to be playing John Travolta. He captures the movie's sense of DiNorscio as a sincere, loyal jokester--not too bright, with a strong gut instinct for people and unwavering fidelity to both family and "family."
Most of the movie takes place in the courtroom, using actual trial testimony, giving it the old-fashioned, soothing, faintly boring quality you'd expect from 82-year-old director Sidney Lumet. Less fiery than your average Law & Order, it repeats the same conflicts and plot points over and over again until the trial winds down.
Ron Silver does his usual raspy/irascible thing as the judge, Peter Dinklage offers a notably bad performance as the lead lawyer, and Annabella Sciorra pops up for one scene as Diesel's wife. Alex Rocco lends gravelly credibility to the main mob boss.
The movie's tone wobbles between making fun of DiNorscio and admiring his old-school values. Lumet ladles on the sappy music, and Diesel ratchets up the puppy-dog eyes as if they're telling the story of a martyred wrong man, instead of a drug dealer who finds a clever way to beat the rap. It may be hard to find a new twist on this familiar genre, but naive hero worship doesn't seem like the best way to go. B-
Includes: Brief interview with director Sidney Lumet, trailers.
Slings and Arrows: Season 1
A Canadian TV series about a Shakespeare festival? It sounds dry as PBS, but it's actually one of the decade's liveliest shows, with a meddling gay ghost, a hot romance, a full slate of vivid characters and two peppy theme songs.
The first season's six episodes, collected on this DVD, take shape around a production of Hamlet starring a Keanu Reeves-like movie star who's unsteady on his theatrical feet and winds up having an affair with the tough-minded ingenue played by Wedding Crashers cutie Rachel McAdams.
The show's center is aging boy wonder Geoffrey Tennant (played by Paul Gross, the lead of the late-'90s cult TV series Due South), who returns from a breakdown to tangle with the ghost of his mentor Oliver Welles and the very real presence of his ex-girlfriend, the theater's resident diva (who slept with Oliver while dating Geoffrey).
Meanwhile, the theater's comically spineless manager (Mark McKinney, who's also one of the show's writers) dives into a doomed affair with a dominatrix-like marketer who hopes to replace the festival with shows like Mamma Mia!
Seen in one gulp on DVD, the episodes play like one long, vivid movie, with an Altmanesque vibe of self-dramatizing performers falling in and out of love with themselves and each other. The actors are not only charming and funny but also bring emotional shadings to their characters--insecurity, ambition, envy, mortality--that make it more than just a jolly backstage comedy.
Co-created by Bob Martin, who just won a Tony for Broadway musical spoof The Drowsy Chaperone, the show first ran in the U.S. on the Sundance Channel, which is still showing the terrific second season. A
Includes: Bloopers, deleted and extended scenes, and more.