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Laramie Movie Scope: The Crew

Geezer gangsters make a comeback

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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August 10, 2000 -- "The Crew" is a generally amiable Disney-like comedy (it was actually produced by a Disney subsidiary company, Touchstone) about a bunch of aging gangsters who have washed up in some old beach front property in Florida. Faced with a series of crises the old wise guys revert to form and come out shooting.

Comparisons to "Space Cowboys" have been made, but these don't have to do any training, and they seem to step right back into the swing of things (except they don't have the stomach for killing people anymore) as if they had never been away from organized crime. It is hard to imagine these guys ever really had the right stuff. They are not convincing as hardened criminals. They seem more like small time crooks just trying to get some respect in their neighborhood. The white-haired wise guys are Joey "Bats" Pistella (played by Burt Reynolds of "Boogie Nights"), Bobby Bartellemeo (Richard Dreyfuss of "Mr. Holland's Opus"), Mike "The Brick" Donatelli (Dan Hedaya of "Dick") and Tony "Mouth" Donato (Seymour Cassel of "Rushmore"). All four have been friends for years.

Rising housing prices are threatening their old apartment complex so the old dudes come up with a funny plan to make the property a lot less valuable. The scheme works like a charm until it backfires getting them in trouble with a drug lord, Escobar (very well played by José Zúñiga of "Con Air"). When hooker Ferris "Maureen" Lowenstein (Jennifer Tilly of "Liar, Liar") hears about the scheme, she blackmails the old gangsters. This gets them involved with Lowenstein's mother, Pepper (Lainie Kazan of "The Big Hit"). A ridiculously complex situation ensues involving the police and the drug lord.

The plot is not terribly funny, but is amusing and is as light as a handfull of down. The characterizations of the four old gangsters are sharp and well-drawn. The four lead actors do a good job defining these quirky characters. There is a poignant subplot involving Bobby Bartellemeo's search for his long-lost daughter and Zúñiga is funny as the exasperated drug lord surrounded by incompetents. His facial reactions to various foiled plans are right on the button. Director Michael Dinner does a good job disguising the threadbare plot by moving things along nicely. The music is evocative of an era 50 years ago. There is some nudity and sexual scenes in the movie.

While I know that "forget about it" is a favorite wise guy saying for just about any situation, it really does get overused in this film. Dreyfuss especially, doesn't seem to have the accent down right, either. The four main characters seem like funny guys, but they don't really seem like retired gangsters, more like retired stand up comics with attitude. Some of the scenes aren't all that funny. In one scene Dreyfuss forces Reynold's head into a toilet bowl until he passes out and then performs mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on him. Now that's tasteless, at least I hope so. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2000 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]