Filmed in Toronto by the Kushner-Locke Co. Executive producers, Peter Locke, Donald Kushner, Robert Dwek; producer, John M. Eckert; associate producer, Vanessa Hayes; director, Roger Young; writer, James S. Henerson, based on the life of Diane Giacalone; Lorraine Bracco turns in a powerful portrayal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutor who fought to jail reputed Gambino crime family head John Gotti. Performances, Roger Young’s direction and James Henerson’s script are so involving that audience may forgive anticlimactic ending. It turns out that Bracco’s character, Diane Giacalone, isn’t the person who brought Gotti down; her seven-year investigation and six-month trial prosecution resulted in a “not guilty” verdict; Gotti was convicted some years later by prosecutors who — despite their court victory — were less successful than Giacalone in landing a TV deal.
Pic is a cross between “The Godfather” and “The Untouchables,” with plucky Giacalone a distaff Eliot Ness, gathering public-payroll crime fighters to war against smooth (reputed) mobster Gotti (Anthony John Denison). “You were the guys who wanted all the crap we go through each day to mean something,” she tells a roomful of diffident gumshoes in one of the film’s more spirited speeches. Boy, are they ashamed (except the FBI, which drops out altogether, citing a drain on manpower).
Director Young and cinematographer Ron Stannett give the film an appropriately gritty look, making better than usual use of Toronto locations as stand-ins for NYC. Henerson’s script is not without wit, notably in the portrayal of Harvey Sanders, a fellow who will, it seems, double-cross anybody. Jeremy Ratchford plays Sanders with leering good humor.
Ellen Burstyn and Jason Blicker appear briefly as Giacalone’s mother and brother; August Schellenberg and Ron Gabriel play a couple of bent-nose types, and Joan Heney is Giacalone’s secretary. Denison moves convincingly from “street” to suave, Gene DiNovi appears, unbilled, as an aging crime boss eventually unseated by Gotti; Peter Boretski plays the boss’s lieutenant.
Most cliches of the genre remain intact: Italians yell a lot at one another over the dinner table, listen to Puccini and Sinatra, and so on. Giacalone, from the same Queens neighborhood as Gotti, is given the token nod to non-mob Italians: “We gave the world Michelangelo, Puccini, Verdi,” she informs, defending her civilization while stopping short of Christopher Columbus, Monica Vitti and Chef Boy-ar-Dee.