(director: Joseph Papello; screenwriter: Peter Panagos; cinematographer: Andrew Froening; editor: Andrew Froening; music: Stefan Swanson; cast: Gerard Garilli (Bobby Russo), Freddie Maas (Domenic Russo), Frank Osso (Rocco Russo, uncle), Maria Marinaro (Claire Donnelly), Alex Di Trolio (Joyce Russo), Nicholas Giordano (a young Bobby Russo), Robert Asencio (Victor), Edward John Socienski (Alphonse ‘Allie Boy’ Moretti), Aden Dixon (the young Chris Barlow, “C-Low”), Kevin Williamson (Chris Barlow, “C-Low”); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Joseph Papello, Peter Panagos, Andrew Froening; Oh Well Productions; 2023)

“Presents a more sympathetic character than one who is usually seen in mafia films.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Joseph Papello directs his feature film debut, a different sort of mafia film because of the protagonist’s secret fetish. It’s well-written by Peter Panagos. The low-budget indie film keeps intact the usual tropes seen in mafia films, but presents a more sympathetic character than one who is usually seen in mafia films. That he turns out to be just as vicious as the others when corrupted as an adult, warns us not to fall in love with mafia characters.

The young Bobby Russo (Nicholas Giordano) is groomed by his domineering and abusive father (Freddie Maas) to be a member of his organized crime family in New Jersey. As an adult Bobby is played by Gerard Garilli. He has a secret fetish that opposes the values of the mob. The title clues you in that it has something to do about how he dresses.

When growing up his repugnant father tried to change his behavior by beating him. Mom (Alex Di Trolio), on the other hand, was a caring person who could better relate to him. But when she dies, the teenager Bobby is left alone to deal with his socially unacceptable secret.

Bobby has a friend who mentors him, not knowing his secret. That would be his uncle Rocco (Frank Osso), the head of the crime family.
But the wise guys sense something peculiar about him and don’t trust him, especially the mafia soldier Alphonse (Edward John Socienski). In his favor, Bobby has a good relationship with his childhood girlfriend Claire (Maria Marinaro).

As Bobby’s role in the crime family grows, it seems unlikely that he can keep his fetish a secret any longer. How he deals with that gives the film a simmering tension.

Garilli’s wannabe tough guy performance is a solid one, that fully captures his character’s fears and desires. Osso’s performance keeps the mob thriller on track to be the mafia film that most viewers can relate to.

Though a lesser film than the Scorsese classic mafia films, it should attract an audience wanting to see a smaller-in-scale but well-made crime genre film that has an edge and an authenticity.

REVIEWED ON 10/25/2023  GRADE: B