Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Rob the Mob vs. Fading Gigolo, two films about average New Yorkers breaking the law.
PremiseBreaking the law to escape poverty is one thing; breaking it for spare change is another. These two New York-based films solidly fall into the latter category. Rob the Mob tells the tale of a young Queens couple (played by Michael Pitt and Venus in Fur‘s breakout star Nina Arianda) who decide to run a petty club robbery so they can pay for the Christmas wedding they’ve been hoping for. In Fading Gigolo, a clumsy geezer played by Woody Allen convinces his florist (John Turturro) to become an escort with Allen’s character Murray as pimp. Problems arise when Pitt and Arianda’s couple realizes they’ve accidentally robbed the mafia, and when Turturro’s Fioravante becomes entangled between three beautiful women played by Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, and Vanessa Paradis. In the end, though, the consequences of Pitt’s crime have higher stakes and ultimately lend to more thrilling cinema.Verdict: Rob the Mob
TalentBeyond the main couple, Rob the Mob boasts Ray Romano as the cop investigating the Mafia that Pitt and Arianda bust, and Andy Garcia as the infuriated leader of the mob in question. Writer-director John Turturro undoubtedly wrote the part of Murray with Woody Allen in mind, and it fits him almost too naturally. Stone and Vergara play Fioravante’s sexually adventurous clientele, while Paradis plays a mysterious widower whose connection to Fioravante bears more complexity. Liev Schreiber appears as a Hasidic Jew with some sort of stake in Paradis’s character. Fading Gigolo‘s cast may have more muscle, but Romano has proved he can pull weight in serious roles (Parenthood) and the brief but absolutely brilliant clips of Pitt and Arianda’s performances from Rob the Mob‘s trailer are enticing enough for us. Verdict: Rob the Mob
DirectorBefore Rob the Mob, director Raymond De Felitta’s best known film was 2009’s Andy Garcia indie, City Island. He did win a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance for his 2006 documentary ‘Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris, though, and an Oscar nod for the short film Bronx Cheers in ’91. What’s most interesting about De Felitta as a director, however, is his professional background as a jazz musician and composer. If the trailer is any indication, the film will have a pretty incredible soundtrack. Gigolo marks Turturro’s first fictional narrative film since the ensemble-led Romance & Cigarettes in 2005. He’s never directed a film that he didn’t also write, and that kind of artistic clarity lends a whole lot of Turturro’s own, undiluted brand of wackiness to his films. Vergara, Stone, Paradis, Schreiber, and Allen didn’t sign on to make a pimp-escort film, they signed on to work with Turturro.Verdict: Fading Gigolo
Crime and PunishmentPitt and Arianda go in for a hit-and-run robbery on what they think are a bunch of old, corrupt gangsters. Turturro gets roped into a high-class prostitution scheme and finds out he’s actually got a knack for it. Pitt soon realizes that he hasn’t stolen from any old crime ring, he’s essentially robbed the mob and stolen a copy of their member ledger in the process. Turturro’s character may have jail time on his hands if he’s caught, but Pitt and Arianda are at best looking at a life of witness protection if they don’t manage to somehow get out of this. Verdict: Rob the Mob
New York AccentsEssentially we’ve got Ray Romano from Queens vs. Woody Allen and John Turturro representing Brooklyn. It’d be nice to go with an Everybody Loves Raymond pun here, but not giving it to Allen just seems wrong. Verdict: Fading Gigolo
The VerdictNeither film seems like a waste of money, but Rob the Mob should and probably propel Arianda into the mainstream, and maybe even be De Felitto’s breakout as film director. On that reasoning alone, Rob the Mob is one to watch in 2014.Winner: Rob the Mob
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