Review: ‘Teamster Boss: The Jackie Presser Story’

As a warm-up to Jack Nicholson's looming "Hoffa," HBO Pictures offers Brian Dennehy in "Teamster Boss: The Jackie Presser Story." Both Fox and HBO may have overestimated public desire to watch bloated union thugs lie, cheat and kill their way to the top, no matter how many stars are on the picket line.

As a warm-up to Jack Nicholson’s looming “Hoffa,” HBO Pictures offers Brian Dennehy in “Teamster Boss: The Jackie Presser Story.” Both Fox and HBO may have overestimated public desire to watch bloated union thugs lie, cheat and kill their way to the top, no matter how many stars are on the picket line.

“Teamster Boss” is studded with ’em. Jeff Daniels is a tough-love FBI guy on the case when Presser was still “Jackie the Clown” running a bowling alley in Palookaville (Cleveland, circa 1976).

Maria Conchita Alonso gets inexplicably attached to this revolting womanizer as the third Mrs. Presser.

Eli Wallach is his dad, Bill, a Teamster Godfather who’s hung up his baseball bat but still packs clout.

Then there’s Dennehy, huge and mean-eyed as ever. Stuffing his face with cheesecake, Presser charms women into the sack, then lies belly-up like a beached whale.

He also gets in bed with the Feds, screwing everybody. Enemies call him a “fat little Jew.” Their cars have a habit of exploding.

Exec producer Abby Mann’s mock-doc script (adapted from James Neff’s book “Mobbed Up”) conspiracy-theorizes Ronald Reagan and the S&Ls into the plot, miraculously transforming Big Labor into a Republican scam.

Best scenes are at Teamster “executive retreats”–a lot of fat old guys partying in Vegas, all in matching track suits.

Mann and Brit helmer Alastair Reid waste too much time probing this pig criminal’s conflicted soul, searching for the heart of gold under his pot of gold.

Thesps all do their bits without surprises. Daniels’ voiceover narration sounds goofily like the guy on “The Wonder Years.”

Teamster Boss: The Jackie Presser Story

(Sat. (12), 8-10 p.m., HBO)

Production

HBO Pictures in association with Abby Mann Prods. Executive producers, Abby Mann, David R. Ginsburg; producer, John Kemeny; director, Alastair Reid; script, Abby Mann, based on the book "Mobbed Up" by James Neff.

Crew

Camera, Elemer Ragalyi; editor, Steven Cohen; production designer, Bill Brodie; art director, Peter Grundy; sound, Don Cohen; music, Brad Fiedel.

Cast

Cast: Brian Dennehy, Jeff Daniels, Maria Conchita Alonso, Eli Wallach, Robert Prosky, Donald Moffat, Al Waxman, Tony Lo Bianco, Kate Reid, Brad Sullivan, Jude Ciccolella, Victor Slezak, Val Avery, Frank Pellegrino, Henderson Forsythe.
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