It may not be the most original of urban crime dramas, but “When It’s Over” is still quite an entertaining one. Rookie outing from writer-director Richard Mancuso overcomes its recycled Brooklyn mob material with good, sustained performances and a script full of twists. Despite a lack of marquee names, pic is engaging enough to merit distribution and has a chance to click on the urban specialized circuit.
The two brothers at the heart of the story, Tony and Michael Affranti (Troy Ruptash and Vincent Caruso), are inseparable even though, after early careers in organized crime, each is now on a different path: Tony collects debts for local gangster Vinny Catman (John Fell), while Michael, pressured by his wife Lisa (Renee Rizzo) to go straight, has taken a job baking bagels.
Pic opens arrestingly with Tony, clearly agitated and aggressively nervous, standing alone in a bathroom stall. Without warning, he shoots the man in the next stall. With no explanation provided, the hit is presumably all in a day’s work for Tony.
Various subsequent plot points come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the genre; underscoring the story is the notion that you can never really escape the mob.
Cruising the neighborhood in their enormous town car, Vinny and his henchman Cargo (Patrick Ferraro) rough up and terrorize debtors. When Vinny demands that Tony make a big, potentially dangerous collection, Tony drags his feet. At the same time, Michael, sheepish about his baking job, bemoans the loss of a financially prosperous, mob-connected lifestyle.
It’s not long before Tony’s new girlfriend Trish (Shoshana Ami) — who also happens to be Vinny’s moll — devises a plan that will supposedly allow Tony, Michael, Lisa and herself to leave the mob behind forever. Wearing disguises, the brothers will intercept Vinny’s upcoming drug deal and abscond with a trunk full of cash. Even the usually cautious Lisa can’t resist.
At this point, the already snappy pacing picks up additional speed. The heist-planning scene is presented with beautiful economy and edited with suspense-mounting precision. Crosscutting between the group strategizing around the kitchen table and the actual events of the robbery, Mancuso and editor Marc Cohen cleverly collapse two events into one rapid-fire sequence.
The robbery comes off as planned, but it seems Vinny has been tipped about the brothers’ participation. Before you can say “Fuhgeddaboutit,” Tony’s in the bathroom stall anxiously awaiting his kill, as the drama comes full circle back to the opening scene.
Action culminates in a slo-mo shootout set to Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” Though effective and well shot, sequence is a hair too reminiscent of “The Godfather’s” memorable blood-bath/baptismal climax.
Still, for whatever it borrows, pic adds something new. In a coda, Mancuso provides a couple of welcome surprises that throw the characters and story into a new light.
Performances are fine all around. Standouts include the wiry, kinetic Ruptash, whose Tony is all coiled energy and raw nerves. As the headstrong Lisa, Rizzo brings a soulful intelligence to the potentially stock role of the demanding wife.
Tech credits are above average. David Knox’s location lensing of Brooklyn and Staten Island lends pic an air of street authenticity. Edgy camera work, such as extreme high and low angles and hand-held shots, adds a noirish feel, although lighting is generally not low key. Craig Richey’s score helps to move the action along at a brisk pace.