“The Mayor” transposes Eduardo De Filippo’s 1960 play “Il Sindaco del rione sanita” (The Local Authority) from Naples to a Midwestern city in 1950s America. But any updating of the material begins and ends with the shift in location. A moral tale chronicling the final days of a neighborhood godfather, this lifeless adaptation muffles the drama of the original text while failing to coax any contemporary relevance from it. Anthony Quinn in the title role should help secure TV sales for the English-language version, but theatrically this looks to be drummed out of office.
Quinn plays Don Antonio Barracano, the aging but still unchallenged boss of the Italo-American community of an unidentified town. As the Don prepares for his 75th birthday, he becomes increasingly subject to ruminations on his own mortality and failing health, while his wife of many years, Armida (Anna Bonaiuto), does her best to prevent the eldest of their three children from following in his father’s underworld footsteps.
Don Antonio’s authority is put to the test when he goes up against strong-willed Arturo (Franco Citti) in an attempt to heal a family rift. The embittered man’s estranged son (Raoul Bova) is unable to provide for his pregnant companion (Maria Grazia Cucinotta) due to Arturo’s having intervened to prevent him from finding work. The Don tries to force a reconciliation between them, but his threats of violence backfire with tragic results.
In its opening minutes, with title lettering that shamelessly duplicates that of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather” saga, and composer Antonio Di Pofi’s main theme, which apes the unmistakable strains of Nino Rota’s music for that series, “The Mayor” signals its lack of a fresh slant on timeworn material. What aims to be a portentous portrait of a once-formidable man instead is enervated by Ugo Fabrizio Giordani’s flat direction and James Carrington’s by-the-numbers script.
The only cast member of any real note here is Bonaiuto, who communicates more in her understated role than most of the more verbose characters around her. Packed with calculated pauses, Quinn’s solemnly theatrical turn treads the requisite line between benevolent and malevolent sides but holds far too few surprises.