DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
AMONGST FRIENDS (director/writer: Rob Weiss; cinematographer: Michael Bonvillain; editor: Leo Trombetta; cast: Steve Parlavecchio (Andy), Mira Sorvino (Laura), Patrick Mc Gaw (Trevor), Joseph Lindsey (Billy), Michael Artura (Michael), Frank Medrano (Vic), Louis Lombardi (Eddie), David Stepkin (Jack Trattner), Ford Sorvino (Fish); Runtime: 90; Fine Line Features; 1993)

"This Scorsese "Mean Streets" type of film has been done too many times and often much better than it was done here."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This Scorsese "Mean Streets" type of film has been done too many times and often much better than it was done here. It was mildly entertaining, setting a wise guy mood in a wealthy suburban area instead of using the usual locale of the gritty urban streets. It was sort of funny hearing the sage-like philosophy coming out of such empty heads as the old mobsters (especially Ford Sorvino-Mira's grandfather) to the young potential mobsters, who already looked just as stupid as their mentors. There was also a very funny bit, featuring fast-talking heavyweights in matching designer jog suits named Vic and Eddie (Frank Medrano and Louis Lombardi). But the film had such a pat look I just couldn't help feeling that it was phony, an annual staging of a movie about wannabe Mafia youths that almost every new indie director thinks he has to make.

Three inseparable childhood friends, the sons of the privileged, Andy (Steve Parlavecchio), Trevor (Patrick McGaw), and Billy (Joseph Lindsey), have grown up in the Long Island suburbs of Five Towns. They enjoyed doing petty crimes as youngsters for the respect they got and because they were bored. After finishing high school, in the late 1980s, Billy asks Andy to make a drug delivery for him. Andy says yes, then changes his mind and gets Trevor to do it for him. Trevor thinks Andy is too scared to do it and decides to help his friend out, but gets arrested in a police sting. After serving two years of hard time and feeling disillusioned, he fails to return to his home town. But he is anxious to see his one-time girlfriend Laura (Mira Sorvino), whom he has not seen or written to while in prison. It is never made clear if Billy set his friends up; the implication is that he did in order to get rid of the competition.

Trevor comes back home after his release by motorcycle and with a different attitude. He plans to see Laura and then leave for California with his motorcycle friend. Trevor's friends have also changed since he was sent away. Billy has become a hotshot hood. Andy, who is now 23-years-old and works under Billy, stagnates and is disgusted that Billy treats him as his flunky. He wants to make one big score on his own even though he comes from wealthy parents and could always get money from them -- but he's all about proving himself, wanting very much to be recognized as a big-time criminal operator. He sees his opportunity through a drug deal where he needs $25,000 to get in on that deal and decides to rob a nightclub with the gang he put together, even though he knows the club is run by a big-time Jewish mobster. He talks the weak-minded Trevor into going along with the heist.

The old-time Jewish gangster club owner, Jack Trattner (David Stepkin), asks his vicious enforcer, Michael (Artura), to get the ones who took his money and diamonds. The 26-year-old first-time director Rob Weiss puts all his cards on the action table, moving it along at a fast clip. The story highlights how different the three friends turned out to be as young adults and how Billy so easily betrays his friends. The weakness of this plot is that the friendship among the three never seemed to be anything but a superficial one to begin with, yet we are supposed to believe it is packed with a great deal of emotion at present.

Trevor is the only one of the three whom we can be sympathetic to, even though he doesn't have much smarts. But he is looking for a different way of life and is searching to find out what really makes him happy, having learned that it is not money. Andy is a loser and needs to mature. Billy is just a weasel. It is difficult to find one thing about him that is likable. I also found it hard to believe that he became a big-time criminal, he just seemed to be too punky.

The problem with this creepy friendship tale, is that everything about the film is shallow including the friendships -- so when they breakup, who cares! The main joke seems to be that the kids learn to respect their gangster grandfathers and not their parents, who have become wealthy the old-fashioned way through their talent.

REVIEWED ON 7/23/2000     GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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