Review: ‘Lookin’ Italian’

Vet TV director Guy Magar takes an able cast 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 it difficult to shake family allegiances and his violent past, "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 "A Bronx Tale" domestic melodrama, further distance pic from theatrical contention. The attractive leads and colorful supporting characters may help only enough for a video spot.

Vet TV director Guy Magar takes an able cast 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 it difficult to shake family allegiances and his violent past, “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 “A Bronx Tale” domestic melodrama, further distance pic from theatrical contention. The attractive leads and colorful supporting characters may help only enough for a video spot.

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 church.

Sexually charged and strutting his good looks in a variety of muscle shirts, LeBlanc resists his uncle’s efforts to provide guidance, and along the way challenges 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 HBO’s “Stepfather III ,” too often stops the burgeoning relationship in its tracks.

Along the way to the film’s wrap, crooner Lou Rawls turns up as an unlikely hero, and interracial romance emerges as a key plot element just in time for the fade.

With solid tech support, pic looks and sounds fine, but could use some judicious editing, especially in the draggy first act. An excess of repetitive dialogue could use pruning as well.

Lookin' Italian

(Domestic drama -- Color)

Production

A Vision Quest Entertainment presentation of a Wing and a Prayer production. Produced, directed, written by Guy Magar. Line producer, Brian J. Smith.

Crew

Camera (Pacific Film Labs color), Gerry Lively; editor, Gregory Harrison; music, Jeff Beal; production design, William Matthews; set decoration, Laurie Scott; costume design, Susanna Puisto; sound (Ultra-Stereo), James R. Einolf, Pat Toma; SFX makeup, Howard Berger; associate producer, Mickey Cottrell; assistant director, Anthony Fiorno; casting, Susan Scudder. Reviewed at Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival, Jan. 9, 1994. Running time: 100 min.

With

Vinny Pallazzo ... Jay Acovone Anthony Manetti ... Matt LeBlanc Danielle ... Stephanie Richards Don Dinardo ... John La Motta Manza ... Ralph Manza Willy ... Lou Rawls
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