A decent set-up isn’t enough to stop Danny A. Abeckaser’s sophomore feature from descending into Scorsese-lite cliche.
The only upside of Danny A. Abeckaser’s sophomore directorial effort Mob Town is that the one element it doesn’t crib from the work of Martin Scorsese is his average runtime. Clocking in at a merciful 90 minutes, this torpid based-on-true-events Mafia tale nonetheless feels much longer, the only solace coming from knowing at the end that these capos didn’t extort you for too much of your precious lifespan.
The plot, admittedly ripe for a movie like this, involves the uncovering of the notorious 1957 Mafia summit meeting in the town of Apalachin in upstate New York by real-life state trooper Ed Croswell, here played by David Arquette. That seems an ideal setup for a decent mob movie, but unfortunately, this isn’t one, and releasing so close to Scorsese’s own The Irishman doesn’t do this graceless imitation any favors.
The real discovery of the meeting — which led to the arrest of 62 mafiosos — hinged heavily on the catering, and so too does Mob Town, to an almost comical extent. Much of the film adopts a jokey tone despite none of it being funny, though I suppose that’s preferable to the hand-wringing seriousness you might expect from the story’s foundations. Despite ostensibly being the story of Croswell’s success, Abeckaser’s film expands to incorporate goofy subplots such as his burgeoning romance with widowed single mother Natalie (Jennifer Esposito), which has its charms if not much of a concrete purpose, other than I suppose to distract from interminable scenes of meat, pasta and fish being purchased.
The film’s gangster knowledge seems cribbed exclusively from genre films, and its evocation of period New York is, thanks to a shoestring budget, handled mostly by the frequent intercutting of vintage stock footage, a singularly charmless way of building an atmosphere. But most of Mob Town is charmless anyway, so at least it’s consistent in that sense.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.