‘Mob Town’: Film Review

A New York State Trooper investigates a gathering of high-profile mobsters in Danny A. Abeckaser’s graceless and clichéd crime drama.

Danny A. Abeckaser
David Arquette, Jennifer Esposito, Danny A. Abeckaser, P.J. Byrne, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Robert Davi.
Release Date:
Dec 13, 2019

Rated R  Running time: 90 MIN.

Official Site: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8722440/

“Who doesn’t love spaghetti?” asks New York State Trooper Ed Croswell (David Arquette) while on a date with single mother Natalie (Jennifer Esposito) in “Mob Town,” and the answer, according to Danny A. Abeckaser’s film, is no one. The traditional Italian dish figures prominently in this low-rent Mafia tale, which — based on an infamous gathering of top organized-crime bigwigs in remote upstate Apalachin, N.Y. — has been concocted with nothing but stale, clichéd ingredients. Clumsy in every respect, it’s an offer even die-hard genre fans will find easy to refuse.

Via introductory text cards and newspaper headlines, Abeckaser’s film lays out its premise: on Nov. 14, 1957, approximately 100 members of the Mafia, from all corners of the country, gathered at the Apalachin estate of Joe Barbara (Abeckaser) under the orders of Vito Genovese (Robert Davi), who wanted to establish himself as the Luciano crime family’s boss of bosses (“capo dei capi”) in the wake of taking out rivals Frank Costello and Albert Anastasia. Thanks to a subsequent sting orchestrated by Croswell, 62 mafiosos were arrested that day.

“Mob Town” is the story of that incident, which closing text informs us compelled FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to finally admit in public that the Mafia existed. Unfortunately, Abeckaser’s action-deficient drama has nothing to add to these bookending facts, save for a wealth of corny plot points and even cornier acting. After a traffic stop of a noted cigar-chomping gangster, Croswell comes to suspect that the Mob may be up to no good in the area. His attention immediately turns to Barbara, a local soda-bottler with known underworld ties, and he’s soon initiating an investigation, much to the chagrin of his lieutenant, whose barking-mad objections to the cop’s sleuthing is as dated as — if far less attractive than — the swanky Cadillacs and Chevys driven by the crooks.

Popular on Variety

Abeckaser’s knowledge of the Mafia seems to stem solely from the movies of Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese (he had a miniscule part in the latter’s “The Irishman”), which is reflected in all the exaggerated accents and hackneyed tough-guy talk (“Hey, howyadoin’?”) found throughout. Most of his criminals strut about in typical dapper suits, while Abeckaser’s own Barbara sports a collection of shirts that make him look like an extra from “Jersey Boys.” As Barbara’s wife Josephine, “The Sopranos” vet Jamie-Lynn Sigler wildly overacts with excitement and vexation over having to prep a meal for so many people, all as her husband spends scene after scene procuring enough meat and fish to feed his numerous guests.

When not busy depicting Barbara’s grocery shopping, “Mob Town” expends undue energy on the budding relationship between Croswell and Natalie, the former played by Arquette with goofy, unconvincing single-mindedness, and the latter embodied by Esposito as a friendly cipher who dresses like a high-school girl. Jon Carlo and Joe Gilford’s script doesn’t serve up so much as one funny or authentic line of dialogue, and Hernan Toro’s cinematography — which captures everyone, and everything, in the middle of the frame — strands his actors in unforgiving compositions that only exacerbate the film’s Mob-shtick gracelessness. Even the production design’s period touches feel awkwardly italicized, as if to make sure viewers realize that this is the 1950s, and these guys are “goombahs.”

“You think you’re in the movies or something?” crows Davi’s Genovese to an underling, but “Mob Town’s” wink-wink address of its own artificiality doesn’t excuse its inept execution, which extends to a stereotypical Italian score by Lionel Cohen. The fact that Croswell’s arrests didn’t lead to a single conviction only further undermines the film’s attempt to turn this historical footnote into something meaningful, or memorable.

'Mob Town': Film Review

Reviewed online, Stamford, Conn., Dec. 12, 2019. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 90 MIN.

Production: A Saban Films release of a 2B Production. Producers: Danny A. Abeckaser, Vince P. Maggio, Robert Ivker. Executive producers: Isaac Gindi, Eddie Gindi, Ron Rofe.

Crew: Director: Danny A. Abeckaser. Screenplay: Jon Carlo, Joe Gilford. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Hernán Toro. Editor: David Leonard. Music: Lionel Cohen.

With: David Arquette, Jennifer Esposito, Danny A. Abeckaser, P.J. Byrne, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Robert Davi.

More Film

  • Pain and Glory

    Pedro Almodóvar’s ‘Pain and Glory’ Sweeps Spanish Academy Goya Awards

    MADRID — Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory” took home Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Antonio Banderas) and Best Original Screenplay at the 34th Spanish Academy Goya Awards, as well as Best Editing, Original Music and Supporting Actress (Julieta Serrano). Almodóvar’s night did have one blemish, however. On the red carpet ahead of the ceremony [...]

  • Timmy Failure-Mistakes Were Made Disney Plus

    'Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made': Film Review

    The passive voice is crucial to the title of “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made,” a Disney kid-detective caper with a clear enough moral: that owning your errors and apologizing for them is an essential part of growing up. If any individual mistakes have been made in the film itself, however, they’re as hard to pick [...]

  • Wander Darkly

    'Wander Darkly': Film Review

    Miserable parents Adrienne (Sienna Miller) and Matteo (Diego Luna) can’t afford therapy. Instead, Adrienne settles for a free Date Night, a casual party that only reminds the couple of their problems: his wish to regress to a slacker-style flophouse, her resentment that he’s never proposed, which has begun to curdle into a suspicion that they’re [...]

  • Mortal

    Saban Films Nabs U.S. Rights to André Øvredal Fantasy Thriller 'Mortal' (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” director André Øvredal’s next adventure will see a U.S. rollout from Saban Films. “Mortal,” starring Nat Wolff, has sold domestic rights to the distributor In a deal brokered by Endeavor Content. TrustNordisk handled international rights. Saban president Bill Bromiley, currently on the ground at the Sundance Film Festival, [...]

  • Carey Mulligan poses for a portrait

    Carey Mulligan Suggests Oscar Voters Need to Prove They've Seen the Movies

    Carey Mulligan has made a conscious decision in recent years to collaborate with female directors, from Sarah Gavron (“Suffragette”) to Dee Rees (“Mudbound”). On Saturday night at the Sundance Film Festival, she’ll unveil “Promising Young Woman,” a thriller written and directed by Emerald Fennell, about a heroine out for revenge after experiencing a traumatic abuse. [...]

  • Andy SambergVariety Sundance Studio presented by

    Andy Samberg Calls Hosting the Oscars a 'Bad Gig' -- That He'd Still Consider

    Andy Samberg has been a reliable favorite hosting awards ceremonies, in recent years emceeing the Independent Spirit Awards, the Emmys and the 2019 Golden Globes with Sandra Oh. So it’s only natural to wonder if Samberg would consider taking the reins on the Oscars, which will return again this year without a host. “They have [...]

  • Shirley

    'Shirley': Film Review

    Shirley Jackson was a real person, a writer best known for her twisted short story “The Lottery,” although the version presented in Josephine Decker’s “Shirley” feels more like a character from one of her own novels. Featuring “The Handsmaid’s Tale” actor Elisabeth Moss in the title role, this queer, hard-to-quantify psychological study isn’t a biopic [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content