Oh, brother. Or, as they say it in Brooklyn, oh, brudda. You've seen Brooklyn Rules before. Many times before. A cliché-clogged and utterly unsurprising mash-up of A Bronx Tale, Goodfellas, and even Saturday Night Fever (the Verrazano Bridge looms ominously in the background of many exterior shots), this coming-of-age tale tracks three best friends from Bay Ridge as they try to make a go of life in a Mob-run neighborhood. This town is so steeped in Mafia madness that even the most casual walk in the woods will ultimately lead to a cosa nostra killing field.
As teenagers in 1985 (cue the best-of-the-'80s soundtrack), Michael (Freddie Prinze, Jr.
), Carmine (Scott Caan
), and Bobby (Jerry Ferrara
) are veering onto different paths. Bobby is the chubby and lovable lunkhead, so stupid he fears failing the Post Office application test. Carmine is the baby goodfella, a hyper stud who takes note of the money and respect that the local bosses have and can't imagine why he shouldn't join up with their crew. And Michael is the one who wants "to get out of this hellhole." An ambitious orphan, he's stumbling through Columbia on a pre-law track and has the hots for Connecticut preppie ice queen Ellen (Mena Suvari
), who finds Michael's Brooklyn background attractively "edgy." Article continues below
Michael's ambition naturally leads to a few of those "What? We ain't good enough for ya?" scenes with Carmine, and eventually, just when Michael thought he was out, they drag him back in. Carmine brings a bit of Mafia horror right into the butcher shop where Michael works in the form of Caesar (an excellent Alec Baldwin
), a mid-level boss. In order to teach an out-of-town interloper a lesson, Caesar introduces the guy's ear to a deli meat slicer right in front of Michael's eyes. It's not exactly Scorsese, but it's memorable.
Later Michael will come to depend on Caesar's and Carmine's protection when, in the wake of godfather John Gotti's rise to power, the Brooklyn mob starts to run wild. Punches, bullets, and clichés will fly as the three friends test their loyalty and search their souls and you get the picture.
Prinze is way too Californian to pull off this very Italian role. Compare and contrast his oral-sex-in-the-back-seat scene with John Travolta
's in Saturday Night Fever. I mean, really Freddie, c'mon. Caan does better, but he's ten years too old for the role. Ferrara, who Entourage fans will recognize as Turtle, does the best, but it doesn't take long for all the "ball-breaking" these three indulge in to grind down your patience. How many sophomoric insults can three Brooklyn teens hurl in five minutes? About 894. Brooklyn Rules could have used a whole more of Baldwin and a whole lot less of just about everything else.