10th & Wolf (2006)

(Premiere Date: April 21, 2006 [Palm Beach International Film Festival])
(Cannes Premiere Date: May 17, 2006 [Cannes Film Festival])
(Theatrical Release Date: August 18, 2006)
(Sneak Preview Date: November 7, 2005)

It's 1991, do you know where your Fathers are?

J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

10th and Wolf is the story of grown kids fitting like square pegs in brown holes into the bygone world of their fathers. That's the nutshell that writer/ director Bobby Moresco has thrown around his coming of rage tale that goes far beyond just that, or any of the other nutshells that could be theoretically thrown around this story and shouldn't be. The reason is that 10th and Wolf isn't, by any means, a cookie cutter movie.

I never feel like I'm shaking hands with greatness, even when I am. It's usually later on that I say things like "Dude, who's hand did I just shake?" Or, you know, in the case of Producer Suzanne DeLaurentiis, the cousin of greatness, or in the case of actor Patrick Brennan, the son of greatness... or, in the case of Production Designer Rando Schmook, maybe the designer of greatness? It doesn't matter. As the characters in 10th and Wolf couldn't possibly tell you, no matter what degree of separation we're dealing with, these folks are great, right here, right now... and their collective movie proves it.

Jarhead ended in the desert outside of Kuwait city, with burning oil wells lighting the sky. Upon bellying up to the Box Office for 10th and Wolf I was ready for something as different as Steak is from Socks. Instead, this movie begins in the desert outside of Kuwait city, with burning oil wells lighting the sky. Everyone is trying to escape the lie, and Tommy (James Marsden) chooses to escape by enlisting into the U.S. Marines, and fighting Saddam, way back in 1991. My how we've changed. Just what old Tommy Boy is running from, lies in his old neighborhood, back in Philadelphia, at the corner of... well, you can guess. The Mafia's hold on the neighborhood has taken the life of his father and his uncle and has corrupted his cousin Joey (Giovanni Ribisi) and dim brother Vincent (Brad Renfro).

For all Tommy's love and loyalty, this is the world he'd rather spend time in a Military Prison than return to... unfortunately every time he thinks he's out they pull him back in again! This time, though, "They" aren't the mob... "They" are the FBI. Yes, yes, the Effa-Bee-Eye, represented here by Brian Dennehy and Leo Rossi are using poor Tommy as their own personal Donnie Brasco, in the hopes of grabbing the collar on the new Mafia Boss. The King (Dennis Hopper's Matty Matello) is dead! Long live the King (Francesco Salvi's Reggio). Just not if the Government has anything to say about it.

What follows is not, I repeat: not just another gangster flick! Oh, there is more violence, blood and execution-style killings here than in the E! True Hollywood story of Biggie Smalls, but this is by no means the retread of many a film from The Godfather to Scarface. No, this is more of an ironic allegory (based on true events), using the Mafia as a bit of a backdrop, only to show realistic characters and their inabilities to fit in a world of liars.

As lil' Joey (now the owner of a strip bar that Vincent manages) tries to inch his way up the mob ladder to the place of Matty before him, Tommy wrestles with himself and his own conflict between family honor and the "right thing". The struggle is palpable here as this is James Marsden's best performance yet. Where Marsden shines, Ribisi shines even brighter (amazingly). Joey goes from small time punk to Godfather wannabe to cartoon to tragic figure to sympathetic small time punk again, and fluctuates believably right up until the genuinely gripping end.

These men are brilliant in their roles, but they're not alone. Lesley Ann Warren gives an exceptional, pathos-driven and surprisingly sexy performance as Aunt Tina. Brad Renfro's performance as her live-in helper, the Dim-Bulb Vincent, is not your typical Forrest Gump here. Instead he's the innocent boy thrust into an anything-but-innocent world. The question of "does this kid even get it" is a microcosm of the realization that perhaps none of the kids here really get it. My favorite is the tear-jerking plight of Piper Perabo's Brandy, the fine girl and good wife, whose husband was offed by the same nasty world Tommy is set to bring down. The cast simply thrives on Moresco's script (written with Allan Steele, from Chazz Palminteri's outline), and they all bring it to life in a most fascinating and beautiful to witness tapestry.

Like Moresco's Crash before it, this film is filled to the rim with cameo appearances, from Donnie Brasco himself, Joseph Pistone, to the aforementioned Hopper and Brennan to even drummer Tommy Lee and a whole host of people with the last names of DeLaurentiis, Tott and Moresco. I'd love to tell you what a fine job Val Kilmer did in his own Cameo, but because that part took place in the strip club, and there were some incredibly beautiful naked women dancing and grinding all around behind him... I hardly even noticed.

As good and fresh as this movie is, it isn't perfect. At times the perfect acting has to hide a few unexplained moments and uncharacteristic choices made for the sake of the script, which we're asked to take on faith. Many things are decided without quite enough basis and many motivations and outcomes leave the audience scratching their heads. You'll see what I mean. Still, these things stand out in an otherwise wonderful movie, superbly acted and masterfully directed by Moresco. While this is an ultra-violent movie with a Mob theme to it, this is most certainly not your average, stale old gangster flick.

This movie needs to be seen for the acting and writing alone, you may be confused and even horrified some of the time, but you will be amazed. Suzanne, Bobby, Rando and Executive Producer Jeffrey W. Tott have made a great film here, and it should be seen. For those who are wondering if they can handle it, remember, this is not your father's gangster film, and for all its shots fired and shocks quagmired, this film does have more legitimate laughs than your average Whoreywood Comedy. It's just too bad you'll have to wait to see it... unless you're reading this after it's been released, in which case... I wonder if I'm dead. Four Stars out of Five for 10th and Wolf, a very unconventional film, from an unconventional director on his way to even greater things (with a producer's credit on Million Dollar Baby, and a co-writing credit on Crash, he's no slouch as it is now!). Well, let me run. My wife wrecked her car, and my car's ignition just died an expensive death and our two car family is down to none. Now I would get all depressed and angry about the whole thing, but after watching what the families in this film went through, I think I'm going to just write God a Thank You letter! Hell and Damn! Suzanne, by the way, has an absolutely incredible body!

Across 110th Street, You can find it All...
But at 10th and Wolf, you might lose it again.
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10th & Wolf (2006) Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is solely responsible for his own views and for the fact that the box he grew up with trading cards in it... still contains trading cards.
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