×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mario Puzo’s the Last Don

While no one will ever mistake "The Last Don" for that other Mario Puzo creation, "The Godfather," this three-night mob opera is not without its share of passion and poignancy, as well as just the right dash of camp (some of it provided by k.d. lang, of all people, as an uptight feature director). The story of a modern-day Mafia clan in America and the fish they make men sleep with, it's a pretty decent trash wallow, if an overlong and often preposterous one. Think "Godfather III" with an overactive thyroid. The best thing about "Last Don"? Easy. Joe Mantegna is the very personification of smooth, slicked-back sleaze as Pippi De Lena, the trusted nephew of mob family patriarch Don Dominico Clericuzio (Danny Aiello, doing Marlon Brando minus the menace). Mantegna turns in a masterful performance as a hit man extraordinaire, born without the conscience gene. He steals the project right out from under the huge cast.

With:
Cast: Danny Aiello, Joe Mantegna, Daryl Hannah, Jason Gedrick, Penelope Ann Miller, Rory Cochrane, Robert Wuhl, k.d. lang, Kirstie Alley, David Marciano, Christopher Meloni, Seymour Cassel, Burt Young, Cliff De Young, Dennis Boutsikaris, Michelle Rene Thomas, John Colicos, Michael Massee, Conrad Dunn, Mike Starr, David Gianopoulos, Bruno Campos.

Based on Puzo’s bestseller, the miniseries purports to document the struggle by an aging don to ensure his Mafia family’s continuing significance as mob influence wanes in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

Things get started in the opener with young and pregnant Rose Marie Clericuzio (Emily Hampshire, played in later years by Kirstie Alley) begging the don for permission to marry Jimmy Santadio (Bruno Campos) of the rival Santadio clan. He agrees to let it happen, sending Pippi as the family representative. Just as the happy couple is consummating their union on their wedding night, however, Jimmy and the entire Santadio bunch is rubbed out in a hail of bullets.

In carrying out the death sentence, the assassins mysteriously dress up in black masks and tights like Ninja executioners. It seems these guys have radically changed their ways from the era of blowing you away point-blank over a plate of spaghetti with clam sauce.

So it goes in a mini where love and loyalty are pretty much indistinguishable from hate and deception. The rest of part one finds Pippi marrying a Vegas showgirl (Penelope Ann Miller), Rose Marie naming her son Dante (Rory Cochrane), Pippi getting a son named Cross (Jason Gedrick) and Cross making his “bones” by killing a lowlife who sliced up the governor’s daughter.

Part two introduces us to life in the Xanadu Hotel & Casino in Vegas, which is run by both the Clericuzios and the Santadios. Both the smooth Cross and the sociopathic Dante begin working full-time in the family business of killing. And Cross falls for glamorous movie star Athena Aquitane (Daryl Hannah).

Athena Aquitane? It sounds like some new spring water bottled in Greece. You wonder where Puzo gets these names from.

The absurdity finally catches up with scripter Joyce Eliason’s adaptation on the third night, when a plan is discussed to assassinate the president of the United States because he opposes a gambling bill.

“The Last Don” is ultimately a collection of compelling scenes coursing through a bloated, soapy sea. It’s nice to see some decidedly un-P.C. blood and violence in a high-profile project, and Mantegna puts on the equivalent of an acting clinic.

Graeme Clifford’s direction is nicely paced, if not exactly seamless, and Gordon Lonsdale’s photography gives the enterprise a sharp, foreboding look. The moody music from “Twin Peaks” alum Angelo Badalamenti and Roger Bellon adds to the effect.

Among the mitigating factors, however, are some of the performances. Gedrick never really shifts out of first gear, often looking and sounding like statuary. And Alley looks lost, like her character, in a catatonic haze.

Whether audience will be inspired to stick through six hours of a Mafia story that has no sign of Joe Pesci and lacks the imprint of either Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola is perhaps a dice roll at best.

Tech credits are all sparkling.

Mario Puzo's the Last Don

CBS, SUN., TUES., WED. MAY 11, 13, 14, 9 P.M.

Production: Filmed in Toronto, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Reno by Konigsberg Sanitsky Prods. Executive producers, Larry Sanitsky, Joyce Eliason, Frank Konigsberg; producer, James T. Davis; director, Graeme Clifford; writer, Eliason, based on the book by Mario Puzo; camera, Gordon C. Lonsdale

Crew: Editors, Tod Feuerman, Kimberly Ray; production designer, Christiaan Wagener; art directors, Dawn Snyder, Stephanie J. Gordon, Thomas Carnegie; costume designer, Theadora Van Runkle; sound, Don Summer, David Lee; music and orchestration, Roger Bellon; theme, Angelo Badalamenti; casting, Lisa Freiberger. 6 HOURS.

Cast: Cast: Danny Aiello, Joe Mantegna, Daryl Hannah, Jason Gedrick, Penelope Ann Miller, Rory Cochrane, Robert Wuhl, k.d. lang, Kirstie Alley, David Marciano, Christopher Meloni, Seymour Cassel, Burt Young, Cliff De Young, Dennis Boutsikaris, Michelle Rene Thomas, John Colicos, Michael Massee, Conrad Dunn, Mike Starr, David Gianopoulos, Bruno Campos.

More TV

  • Bradley Whitford photographed at the PMC

    Bradley Whitford on the 'Obligation' to Speak Out Politically

    Having starred on Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing” for seven seasons, Bradley Whitford is certainly no stranger to political television. Now he’s in two more such series: Nat Geo’s exploration of the dot-com era, “Valley of the Boom” in which he plays real-life Netscape CEO James Barksdale, as well as Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in [...]

  • 'Vikings' Alum Travis Fimmel Among 10

    'Vikings' Alum Travis Fimmel Among 10 Cast in TNT Drama 'Raised by Wolves'

    TNT has set 10 cast members for the Ridley Scott-produced drama “Raised by Wolves.” The show, which was ordered straight-to-series in October, centers on two androids tasked with raising human children on a mysterious virgin planet. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences, the androids learn that controlling [...]

  • Julie Souza Jerry DiMeglio

    Wheelhouse Entertainment Appoints Julie Souza, Jerry DiMeglio To C-Suite

    Brent Montgomery’s Wheelhouse Entertainment is firming up its executive suite with two major appointments, tapping Julie Souza to become chief operating officer and Jerry DiMeglio as its chief financial officer. Souza will oversee the company’s operations, and have a hand in corporate and strategic planning, as well as business development. She most recently was senior [...]

  • Randall Park, left, and Constance Wu

    Constance Wu Wants Her 'Fresh Off the Boat' Co-Star Randall Park to Host the Oscars

    While the Academy may have decided to go hostless for this year’s Oscars, that doesn’t mean the rest of Hollywood has stopped thinking about who would be a good choice for the emceeing gig. Former host Whoopi Goldberg recently suggested Ken Jeong. Jeong said, when he was a guest on “The View,” Goldberg told him [...]

  • WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01

    BritBox Subscribers Hit Half a Million

    The number of subscribers to BritBox has hit 500,000, the streaming service said Thursday. The platform, launched as a collaboration between BBC Studios and ITV, is designed to offer U.S. and Canadian viewers the best of recent and classic British television content. The streaming service launched in the U.S. in March 2017 with a host of [...]

  • Anne Bulford, BBC's First Female Deputy

    Anne Bulford, BBC's First Female Deputy Director-General, to Exit

    Anne Bulford, the BBC’s first female deputy director-general, is set to leave the British pubcaster in the spring, it was announced Thursday. Bulford, who took on the deputy director-general role in July 2016 after joining the BBC in February 2013 as managing director of finance and operations, is leaving to pursue a portfolio of non-executive roles. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content