This Thing of Ours
Directed by Danny Provenzano
Small Planet, opens July 18, at the Loews State and Village East

Taking The Sopranos‘ “Gangsters are human, too” ethic at face value but eschewing that show’s scope and scalding insight, Danny Provenzano’s mafioso melodrama is the immoral vanity project to end immoral vanity projects. Word has it that Provenzano—who stood trial for racketeering last year—incorporated details from his own shady business tactics (beatings and kidnappings presumably not being par for the course in the printing industry) into the screenplay. Danny Pro plays Nick, a made guy who convinces family bigwigs to bankroll an Internet extortion scheme he’s cooked up with some pals. Little tension is generated in the resulting internecine squabbles, but there’s ample opportunity for the familiar supporting cast (including Vincent Pastore from The Sopranos and James Caan in a showy cameo) to wax warm and witty when they aren’t breaking thumbs. —Mark Holcomb

The Anarchist Cookbook
Written and directed by Jordan Susman
American World, July 18 through 24, at the Village East

Susman’s film opens with a Joan Didion moment—Yeats’s “the center will not hold” quote—but instead of late-’60s Haight-Ashbury, we get modern-day Dallas, an apt setting for a tale about a young “destruction is creativity” type who gets wise to nihilism’s dark side, falls in love with an s&m Republican, and exposes a violent militia plot. Puck (My So-Called Life‘s Devon Gummersall) lives in a ramshackle manse with a group of like-minded work-shirkers who believe “property is theft” and anarchy “a way of life.” Mostly, though, anarchy’s just fun: skateboarding in the house, scaring kids in the toy store, and the occasional consciousness-raising at a local fair’s Davy Crockett re-enactment. All remains peaceful until the arrival of Johnny Black (Dylan Bruno), a diluted version of Tyler Durden who swoops in to usher Puck’s gang out of their bleary-eyed innocence. For Black, the goal of liberation justifies any means—explosions, drugs, alliances with guys who have swastikas tattooed on their shaved heads. Drawing support from a Bush-loving closet dominatrix, Puck seems to be the only member of his group capable of seriously confronting Black, though this showdown is preceded by annoying soul-searching. Cookbook banks on the humor of its caricatures and the heft of its moral dilemma, but because it never develops its characters beyond types, it comes off as flat and forced throughout. Puck’s decisions will seem like no-brainers to everyone except maybe his pseudo-anarchist friends. —Michael Miller

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