Film

Patricia Arquette Deserves Better Than a Moll Role in Mafia Drama ‘The Wannabe’

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The Wannabe is proof that a Martin Scorsese executive producer credit is no guarantee of an interesting time at the movies.

The film, based on a true story (well conveyed in the newsreel opening), centers on Thomas (Vincent Piazza), a Mafia fanboy who tries and fails to fix John Gotti’s trial and ends up going on a crime spree. At the heart of The Wannabe is a potentially fascinating tale of masculine performance and an outsider’s attempts to break into long-established cultural groups. Unfortunately, the film never really explores these issues, instead leaving Thomas as something of a cipher.

After hearing the verdict in the Gotti trial, he opens his mouth wide and silently screams, in slow motion. The moment feels more frustrating than emotionally devastating — Thomas cares a lot about the Mafia, yes, but what else is there to him? His girlfriend (later wife), Rose (Patricia Arquette), doesn’t fare much better. Arquette is a reliably strong actress, capable of filling a trashy-on-the-surface role like Alabama in True Romance with intrigue and humor, but here she isn’t given much to do beyond act like a typical moll, all long nails and New York accent.

Thomas and Patricia are tragically fated, but it is difficult to find a foothold in their story. Meanwhile, director Nick Sandow relies on a drab color palette that suits the generally humorless script. Michael Imperioli turns up for a brief appearance as Alphonse, Thomas’s brother, who works as a florist and sports an impressive ponytail. Imperioli’s presence is a welcome one, but it mostly serves to remind the audience of better onscreen Mafia depictions.

The Wannabe

Written and directed by Nick Sandow

Orion Pictures

Now playing, AMC Empire 25

Available on demand