Based on a true 1970s story about a New York mob family, the Steve Allie Collura-Arnold Margolin telefilm gleams with two particularly touching performances under Sam Pillsbury’s adroit direction. Writer Margolin, who has done a solid job of persuasive writing, and fellow producer Collura have a real tale to tell and know how to tell it.
A would-be photographer, hero Steve Allie Collura is chosen by a lifetime buddy to become an undercover cop and infiltrate the Gambino family. Collura wins over Don Carlo Gambini himself, though Raggio, one of the mob, has a hunch Collura’s something more than a photographer and starts watching.
Collura, limned splendidly by Grant Show, falls for Maria Caprefoli, Gambino’s protected goddaughter who was raised by the don and is always under surveillance. Since he’s OK with Gambino, Collura has the greenlight to pursue the radiant Maria, played exquisitely by Maria Pitillo, and it’s their romance that’s the telepic’s draw.
The pairing of Pitillo, once of “Ryan’s Hope,” and Show of “Melrose Place” is a winning card. Show, who displays easy charm and a becoming concern, makes Collura a winning character. The radiant, blond Pitillo is a standout, a beauty who can really act.
Robert Loggia plays an understated Gambino with finesse, and Cloris Leachman, playing Collura’s mother, gives the role depth and truth. Michael Nouri as a Gambino opponent who keeps a lion in his cellar makes the most of a cameo part.
The drama’s Italian mobster background looks familiar, but the writer, director and cast all have the sense to approach it as though the material were brand new. There’s a momentary confusion in the meller when a mobster’s gunned down, but there’s a legit motive for the action.