Massacre Mafia Style truly has to be seen to be believed. And by that, I mean the opening ten minutes, which surely rates as one of the most amazing opening scenes ever filmed. It's shocking, tacky, brutal, idiotic, appalling and absolutely astonishing. Unfortunately, the rest of the film can't hope to live up to it, but it sure tries its best.
|Director: Duke Mitchell
Starring: Duke Mitchell, Vic Caesar, Lorenzo Dodo, Lou Zito, Cara Salerno
Writer: Duke Mitchell
The film quickly introduces us to two ageing wiseguys, suit-clad gangsters Reservoir Dogs or, indeed, Pulp Fiction-style: Rizzo (Vic Caesar) and Mimi Micelli (Duke Mitchell). Mimi, son to a once-legendary crime boss who has been exiled back to Sicily, is in L.A. trying to reestablish control of the "family business" – you know, the usual: drugs, prostitution, drinking, gambling. Mimi makes quite the impression, pissing everyone off including the local mafia and a famous pimp named Sugarspook with his brazen and callous display of violence. Recruiting old buddy Rizzo, Mimi cuts a bloody swathe through L.A., earning more enemies than he does respect. And, er that's about it as far as the plot goes.
Nightclub singer turned actor-writer-director Duke Mitchell probably hoped that this low budget gangster picture would make as much coin as The Godfather, as this is a pretty transparent cash-in on Coppola's masterpiece. Yet, interestingly, it dares to shit in its own bed, so to speak, by trying to shame that Oscar-winning masterpiece for apparently painting a picture that all Sicilians are Mafia goons. That's a bit rich, coming from this sleazy, gory exploitation film that focuses around a wretched, violent thug who excuses his disgusting behaviour by explaining that he's a fish out of water, a man from a different time who's going the way of the dodo. I call bullshit. Massacre Mafia Style wants to be all high-minded whilst at the same time wallowing in gore.
This is such a silly movie. It's wonderful. "That's his finger alright," says a goon, remarking on the supposed validity of a severed finger belonging to his boss, "I've seen it on him a million times". Yes, this is an actual line in the film, a line that was deliberately written, filmed and edited into the final cut.
The sets are sparse and cheap, camerawork is a little wonky, but that all adds to the charm. The acting is pretty stilted if you compare it to a legitimately great gangster film like Goodfellas orCasino, but contained in its own weird little world isn't as terrible as it could have been. Presumably there wasn't the money for multiple takes.
Massacre Mafia Style (also going by the less exploitative title Like Father, Like Son) is the sort of film set in an alternate universe where the "hero" – who is a sleazy, ageing bastard, who's hardly Brad Pitt, mind you – can crash the wedding of a mob boss's son (yes, the boss he just kidnapped and severed a finger), raise a glass, feel up a busty young girl he just met and worm his way back into the boss's good graces — because that's the sort of guy he is.
But that opening scene. Beautiful. Do yourself a favour, don't watch the trailer beforehand, as it is essentially the entire scene beat for beat. But just to give you a sense of the insanity on display, we're introduced to our heroes as they accost a wheelchair-bound man (who is able to noticeably move his legs on more than one occasion!) in an especially creative manner, before gunning their way through an office like complete psychopaths. They wind up in a lift and Mitchell seems unable to keep his hands of a black kid who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the film just gets weirder from there. Add some awful stylised credit titles, gory violence with bright red blood straight out of Dawn of the Dead and a cheesy Italian tune and you have a true winner.
Mind you, it's not as retarded as The Room. Mitchell knows how to stage a scene and keep the pacing on target. It's apparent that budget was the primary limitation on this production. But that still doesn't mean it isn't endearingly and entertainingly misguided. As mentioned, this being a vanity project, Mitchell is fond of breaking into long monologues about Italians having lost their way and blah-de-blah – a futile attempt to instil some depth in between the gore and violence. His final monologue goes on about how the world is changing, how the mafia is being kicked out of prostitution and drug rackets by more ruthless criminals and how their way of life is being parodied and insulted (all together now – aaawwwww). Yeah, whatever. Tell that to the fiftieth person you've shot in the face, champ.Come for the opening scene, stay for the bloodletting and cannoli-infused silliness. Duke Mitchell presumably hoped for a thoughtful and provocative Godfather-alternative. What he delivered was worth treasuring more: a violent, misguided film of idiocy that occasionally, and accidentally, slips into competence.