Independent Italian producer Claudio Bonivento, who was instrumental in putting directors Marco Risi and Ricky Tognazzi and actor Claudio Amendola on the map with such films as “Forever Mery,” “Ultra” and “La scorta,” moves into directing with the crime drama “Other Men.” While it’s quite engrossing, and well performed by a high-caliber cast, the ingredients of this tale of latter-day gangsters who ruled Milan in the ’70s are way too familiar and its execution too heavily styled on vintage Scorsese, “GoodFellas” in particular. Theatrical profile looks to be modest.
Based on real-life characters (with their names changed) documented in the book “Io il Tebano” (I, the Theban) by Antonio Carlucci and Paolo Rossetti, story centers on Michele Croce (Amendola), a twentysomething kid from Southern Italy with brawn and ambition who works his way up to become one of the most powerful figures of the Milanese underworld.
Opening in 1980, the action unfolds as an extended flashback during which the imprisoned Michele recaps his rise and fall for an investigating magistrate. Too hot-tempered to hold down a regular job, he teams with trusted friend Salvatore (Tony Sperandeo), initially on petty thefts and small-time holdups. Their operation soon expands, bringing the small band to the attention of greedy gambling boss Loris Corbi (Ennio Fantastichini).
Indebted to Michele when he saves his life, Loris offers him a partnership, which he accepts to get a foot in the door of the big-league crime world. When Loris is arrested, he attempts to continue running things from inside through the gutsy manicurist (Veronica Pivetti) whom he marries in prison. But Michele’s refusal to comply weakens the unity of his clan, leaving him open to betrayal.
Always a strong screen presence, Amendola makes a sympathetic antihero, divided by his instincts as a husband and father and his credo that it’s “better to be a criminal and somebody than an honest man and nobody.” Backup cast also is generally solid, though scripting of certain characters, especially the women , could have been more three-dimensional.
While Bonivento corrals all the dramatic elements serviceably enough, his direction tends toward flatness, and the action has a monotone feel. The film is undistinguished visually, and saddled with a rather old-fashioned score.