An aging hitman hopes to finance his retirement and provide for his family with a final assignment in the professionally crafted gangland drama “Chicago Overcoat,” from debuting helmer Brian Caunter. The seamy side of the Windy City takes centerstage in this independently produced tale, which musters mob-film cliches with verve. Although neither material nor execution supplies the fresh twist that would render it theatrical material, this energetic calling-card pic boasts the most charismatic mafia murderer since Tony Soprano and enough name thesps to deliver results in ancillary.
White-haired, steely-eyed Lou Marazano (“Sopranos” thesp and vet screen wise guy Frank Vincent, who gets to show his soft side here) feels nostalgic for his glory days as the deadliest killer in the 31st Street Crew of the infamous Chicago Outfit — a time when he got the respect his talents deserved. Now he lives a spartan life and wishes he could do more for his divorced daughter (Gina D’Ercoli) and troubled grandson (Robert Gerdisch).
When the Outfit’s imprisoned boss (Armand Assante) orders a trio of hits to hide a conspiracy between the mob and city officials, Lou volunteers for the job. But something about Lou’s m.o. triggers a memory in Det. Ralph Maloney (Danny Goldring in fine, blustery form), a prickly alcoholic old-timer who, like Lou, finds that aging means he must fight for respect.
At its best when depicting the indignities of getting old in the biz of organized crime — and crime-fighting — the script by Josh Stamen, John W. Bosher, director Caunter and Andrew Dowd also offers a fair share of platitudes, particularly in the glib, hard-bitten dialogue and the relationship between Lou and g.f./alibi Lorraine (Kathrine Narducci, another “Sopranos” alum); the way it exploits ethnic stereotypes won’t win any awards from Italian-American image groups.
Lou’s voiceover narration helps sort out the pic’s plethora of characters and side stories. It also positions him as the most developed and sympathetic character, a role Vincent assumes with relish.
Caunter and producers John W. Bosher, William S. Maursky, Philip S. Plowden, Kevin Moss and Chris Charles met as students in Chicago’s Columbia College film program and formed production outfit Beverly Ridge Pictures together. Assured-looking (with a distinct Windy City flavor) and confidently paced, “Chicago Overcoat” marks their first feature. Pic’s $2 million budget was assembled with considerable assistance from cinematographer Moss’ mother JoAnne, also credited as a producer.
Although never mentioned onscreen, a “Chicago overcoat,” according to press materials, is Prohibition-era slang for a coffin.