Saturday 4 March 2017

Movie Review: Married To The Mob (1988)

A mobster comedy for adults, Married To The Mob mixes violence with laughs. The film achieves a steady level of caricaturish entertainment but is generally overbaked.

In New Jersey, Angela (Michelle Pfeiffer) is getting tired of life as the wife of mob contract killer Frank "The Cucumber" de Marco  (Alec Baldwin). She demands a divorce, but Frank laughs it off. Everything changes when mob boss Tony "The Tiger" Russo (Dean Stockwell) kills Frank because he dared to share the same mistress. Tony immediately turns his attention to seducing Angela, much to the disgust of Tony's wife Connie (Mercedes Ruehl).

FBI Agents Michael Downey (Matthew Modine) and Ed Benitez (Oliver Platt) are tailing Tony and spot an opportunity to get to him through Angela. She moves with her young son to a derelict New York City apartment to try and start a new life, but Angela can't shake off the attentions of Tony, the FBI, or a furious Connie.

Directed by Jonathan Demme, Married To The Mob hits the notes it aims for, but this is a film that goes for dissonance. Roughly equivalent to Gloria on dubious amounts of laughing gas, Married To The Mob tries to do too much, but also does enough to generate occasionally satisfying madcap energy.

Demme often appears to be working from a hodgepodge script with too many ideas and not enough focus. Cold blooded assassinations and shootouts, a human story about a woman and child seeking a new start, a satirical look at the garish styles of the wives of gang goons, a tentative romance between the widow Angela and the agent Downey, an unexplained war between rival mob gangs, and finally over the top comedy mainly driven by Connie's rage are all thrown together into one mixing bowl. The result cannot be taken seriously in any context, and the film survives on the strength of committed performances.

Pfeiffer, Stockwell and Ruehl play it loud, which is the only way to compete with the sound of material splattering all over the screen. The big 1980s era hair gives the ladies licence to crash through all lines of subtlety. While Pfeiffer tries to maintain some level of serious drama, Ruehl just abandons all pretense and fully invests in wild antics and wide-eyed fury. Stockwell contributes the best moments as he fluctuates between oily mob boss and smarmy lecher pursuing the one woman who dares to resist him. Matthew Modine is just too blank to register, despite several disguises.

Married To The Mob reaches an appropriately wild and bloody climax in Miami, the vivid seaside colours adding a final flourish to the pop-off-the-screen intentions.


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