|THE PUBLIC EYE (director/writer: Howard Franklin; cinematographer: Peter Suschitzky; editor: Evan Lottman; music: Mark Isham; cast: Joe Pesci (Leo 'Bernzy' Bernstein), Barbara Hershey (Kay Levitz), Stanley Tucci (Sal), Richard Riehle (Officer O'Brien), Gerald Becker (FBI Inspector Conklin), Jared Harris (Danny the Doorman), Gian-Carlo Scanduzzi (Cafe Society Maitre D'), Jerry Adler (Arthur Nabler), David Gianopoulos (Emilio Portofino), Dominic Chianese (Spoleto), Richard Foronjy (Farinelli), Bryan Travis Smith (Young Cop), David Hull (Thatcher, insider), Tim Gamble (Agent Chadwick), Patricia Healy (Vera Hickson), Del Close (H.R. Rineman), Timothy Hendrickson (Richard Rineman); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Sue-Baden Powel; Universal; 1992)|
|"Plays as if a moody
1940's noir film."
by Dennis Schwartz
Howard Franklin's ("Quick Change"/"Larger Than
Life") crime drama pic is based on the celebrated New York
Daily News tabloid photographer Weegee, who covered
the city's big crime stories during the 1930s. The
Public Eye plays as if a moody 1940's noir film. Joe
Pesci plays Bernstein, also called Bernzy and the Great Bernzini, who is a
middle-aged bachelor freelance photographer
with a penchant for being first at crime scenes and of
being the photographer to the celebs, politicos,
gangsters, cops and the NYC low-lifes.
In 1942, trouble brews for
Bernzy when the sexy recent owner of the fancy
Manhattan nightclub called the Cafe Society, Kay
Levitz (Barbara Hershey), who inherited the place from
her bootlegger hubby when he died, asks the
photographer as a favor to find out who is Emilio
Portofino (David Gianopoulos) and why he
claims to be her club partner. The mystery man is a
regular at the club and has shown her a legit contract
signed by her hubby, something hubby never mentioned.
slovenly dressed Berny, who normally wouldn't be
allowed in the front door of the ritzy club, falls for
the smooth well-dressed but vulnerable social climber
Kay, who leads him on even though he's out of her
league. His investigation, beyond the call of duty,
leads him to a gang war between rival Mafia factions
such as the Spoleto (Dominic Chianese) and
Farinelli (Richard Foronjy) led
gangs, and a mysterious government high-up who is
involved with the Mafia. The warring boys create a
bloodbath in the NYC streets, as their fight is for
who gets the valuable stolen wartime gas ration
coupons given to the mobsters by the crooked
politician Thatcher (David Hull) with the inside
connections in the OPA.
Inspector Conklin (Gerald Becker),
heading the investigation of the Mafia war, is
pictured as a fascist-like copper who bullies those
under him and is determined to coverup the missing gas
coupons in the hopes of avoiding a government scandal.
The fictionalized Cafe Society, a good imitation of
the real-life Stork Club, is the celebrity hangout
spot and the watering hole where the snobbish Maitre D' (Gian-Carlo Scanduzzi) and the hustler
street-smart doorman (Jared Harris) are viewed as
catering only to those in high society.
Though good in parts and
made palatable through Pesci's riveting performance as
an eccentric obsessed shutterbug seeking respect
and recognition for his work as an artist the pic
doesn't holdup all the way, as the romance part was
never made credible and the gangster part never
resonates with the tension that should have made its
melodramatics more pulpy and boisterous instead of so
subdued. Nevertheless, despite its flaws, there's
still enough sizzle and pop to make this pic a keeper.
REVIEWED ON 8/15/2013 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ