Tuesday 17 August 2010

Movie Review: Analyze This (1999)

A mobster comedy with a sharp wit and two leading actors in their prime having fun bouncing off each other.

Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro) is a New York mobster boss with a problem: he's losing his edge, crying at sappy TV commercials and having panic attacks. He is also the target of other gangsters who want to eliminate Vitti ahead of a large meeting of mob bosses. Vitti turns to psychiatrist Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal) for help. Sobel not only wants nothing to do with a mobster boss who has manhood issues, he's also trying to have a vacation and get married to Laura (Lisa Kudrow).

Vitti nevertheless barges into Sobel's life - repeatedly - to seek therapy, and soon Vitti's allies want Sobel killed because he knows too much, and the FBI want Sobel to betray Vitti.

The clever premise of Analyze This is professionally polished by director Harold Ramis, working with a script full of sharp dialogue, uncontrolled profanity, and a couple of astute references to The Godfather. De Niro and Crystal are never less than entertaining, and the scenes between them are the highlights of the film. Crystal provides a more sane anchor to the proceedings, while De Niro lets loose with a comic version of a mobster in distress. Joe Viterelli as Jelly, Vitti's robust main henchman, emerges as almost the third star of the film.

There are some weaknesses: a promising dysfunctional relationship between Dr. Sobel and his dad is introduced but not followed up on, while the film does not manage to avoid some wild Hollywood excesses, both in terms of flying bullets that seem to hit no one, and the over-cooking of the drama between Vitti and his deceased father.

But Analyze This succeeds where it matters most: two terrific actors analyzing each other and jointly delivering a bright, captivating diagnosis.

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