Vet TV director Guy Magar takes an able cast and solid tech support through the paces of a story that feels stitched together from too many well-worn sources. The story of an ex-Mafioso who tries to start a new life but finds family allegiances and his violent past difficult to shake, “Lookin’ Italian” fails to overcome the script’s familiar turns and hoary cliches. Inconsistencies in tone, ranging from “Revenge of the Nerds” humor to bloody Tarantino-style mayhem and “Bronx Tale” domestic melodrama, only further distance pic from theatrical contention. The attractive leads and colorful supporting characters may help only enough for “Italian” to find its place on video.
Both Jay Acovone and TV hunk Matt LeBlanc work overtime to flesh out the relationship of a former mobster and his brash, reckless young nephew whom he has taken under his wing. Flashbacks fill in the uncle’s dark history; after a deadly confrontation with gangland rivals in New York, Acovone has settled in L.A., where he finds peace toiling as a clerk in a musty bookshop and paying daily visits to the local church.
Sexually charged and strutting his looks in a variety of muscle shirts, LeBlanc challenges his uncle’s efforts to provide guidance, and along the way also confronts Acovone’s self-imposed retreat from life. As the story progresses through a series of unconvincing events ranging from godfather warnings to unprovoked L.A. street gang attacks, both thesps are called on to hit fever-pitch emotions that might connect in a better-sketched scenario.
Here, however, their sincerity becomes maudlin, and uneven direction by Magar , who helmed the 1987 horror item “Retribution” as well as “Stepfather III” for HBO, too often stops the burgeoning relationship in its tracks.
Along the way to the film’s wrap, which involves dark secrets, street gang revenge and wistful love interludes graced with lines like “Is it possible to fall in love after only 24 hours?,” crooner Lou Rawls turns up as an unlikely hero, and interracial romance emerges as a key plot element just in time for the fade.
Pic looks and sounds fine, but could use some judicious editing, especially in the draggy first act, and an excess of repetitive dialogue could use pruning as well.