From the screenwriters of Rounders comes this "next generation" mob story. It stars Barry Pepper and Vin Diesel and features John Malkovich and the second hardest working man in showbusiness, Dennis Hopper (the first is, of course, Christopher Walken). It's basically the story of a son (Pepper) trying to show his old man (Hopper) that he belongs in the family business. He fails to kill a man when he's twelve and ever since his uncle (Malkovich) won't let him forget it. Unable to make it in the outside world because of his connection to the mob, he figures the only thing left is to prove he can make it as mobster. His efforts fail and through the trials that follow he realizes he was right to try to get out in the first place.
The story is fairly simple and I was impressed that it seems to make a point at showing the downside of that way of life rather than gloss it up as so many other mob movies do. And since it is a modern story, it shows that the mob ain't what it used to be back in the days of Luciano, Gambino or even Gotti. It's fairly well written, though some of the scenes drag a bit and the action scenes are decent if sparse.
Pepper is good, but he was far better in Saving Private Ryan and 61*. Still, I think he has a promising career to look forward to. Hopper is barely in the movie and Malkovich has a strange accent, half his regular voice, half Brooklynese. Seth Green has a pretty sizable role and continues to impress. He certainly has proved that he can do drama as well as comedy. I was mostly impressed with Diesel. I'm not particularly fond of him and tend to stay away from his action pictures, but he brought some life to this part and provided a conscience for Pepper's character. Also of note is the odd but always good Tom Noonan as a small town sheriff who gets involved with the tough guys and finds out why that's a bad idea.
I must say that I had heard many good comments about this movie and did not see it myself. It's a promising start for these first time directors, but I doubt that it would have made it to the big screen had it not been for the involvment of uber-producer Lawrence Bender and some of the star names attached. It's worth a look see if you can't find anything else at the video store, but if you are strapped for cash I'd find something else. That is all.