Of all the mob hits and Mafia massacres you’ve read about or seen dramatized in the movies, nothing compares to a Capo eyeballing a kids’ soccer team, then arranging for them to meet with “an accident” during their trip to Venezuela.
They were Canadian. And the reason that happened? The Montreal Sicilian mob needed a means to smuggle cocaine into the country. Who’s going to dig around searching the bodies of dead children?
That’s the cold-blooded crime at the heart of “Mafia, Inc.,” a gritty Canadian mob saga about two families, tied to each other through haberdashery and blood.
Director Daniel Grou (TV’s “Vikings”) and screenwriter Sylvain Guy (“Louis Cyr”) crafted a workmanlike saga out of the non-fiction book of the same title by André Cédilot and André Noël. There’s nothing flashy about retelling this mostly-“true” story. A long flashback shoved into the second act makes the tale unfold more clumsily than gracefully. But the violence, waiting for more violence and intrigues make this a compelling, highly-watchable account of corruption, murderous mob ambition and family ties in French Canadian Quebec.
Veteran Italian character actor Sergio Castellitto plays Franceso Paterno, boss of a Montreal crime family looking for an opening to ensure his legacy and wealth for another generation. A planned bridge connecting Sicily and mainland Italy in the early ’90s seems to be his answer. With mob-connected politicians and a mob-friendly government, an “investment opportunity” promises to allow Mafia money laundering on an epic scale on the multi-billion Euro project.
He needs to keep a low profile, keep the peace between rival gangs in Montreal. He’ll divvy up territory among bikers, Irish, Lebanese and and others, reduce the violence and streamline the flow of drugs.
But promoting made-man Vince (Marc-André Grondin of “Goon”) above his own son Giacomo “Jack” Paterno (Donny Falsetti) creates hard feelings. We know blood’ll be spilled over that, sooner or later.
Vince Gamache may have his own history with the family. But there are other ties. Vince’s dad (Gilbert Sicotte) is longtime tailor to the Sicilian-Canadians. And Francesco’s youngest son (Mike Ricci) is in love with the tailor’s daughter, Vince’s sister Sofia (Mylène Mackay) and plans to marry her.
The long-codified tropes of Mafia movies pepper the script. But these conventions, rituals and the like aren’t fetishized here in the manner of too many ollywood films. We aren’t buried under such details.
The most colorful supporting player is Tommy (Antonio Iammatteo), the pushy, greedy informant whose mob nickname is “Yap Yap.”
The violence is sometimes abrupt, sometimes set-up and slow marched across the screen, but always horrific.
And yes, the (nameless) cops are watching. But with mob-tied figures in government in Italy and Canada, how many steps will the Mounties be behind our villains? Two? Three?
Castellitto gives Francesco a silky veneer that makes his explosions of temper all the more alarming. He’s played Enzo Ferrari on the screen, has been in films all over the world (“Chronicles of Narnia,” “Mostly Martha” seen here). But this is a character he can really tear into.
Grondin’s take on Vince has a bracing heedlessness to it. Documentaries on the mob always remind us that these guys aren’t rocket scientists. Native cunning fights a mental tug of war with recklessness, risky impulsiveness. Grondin lets us see this guy struggle to be crafty, a man only at his sharpest when raw instinct has to take over.
The best thing about the script and direction is that we rarely get too far ahead of it. We think we see what’s coming, but you never know.
Much of the appeal here, the film’s only real novelty, is its setting. These are Canadian monsters, seemingly out-of-place, running roughshod over their countrymen the way the Yakuza alarm and shock well-mannered Japan.
Watch “Mafia, Inc.” and you’ll never buy into the maple-syrup/hockey-mad “nice neighbors to the North” stereotype again.
MPA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, nudity
Cast: Sergio Castellitto, Marc-André Grondin, Mylène Mackay, Gilbert Sicotte, Antonio Iammatteo
Credits: Directed by Daniel Grou, script by Sylvain Guy, based on the book by André Cédilot and André Noël. A Film Movement Plus release.
Running time: 2:23