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TEN BENNY(director/writer: Eric Bross; screenwriter: Tom Cudworth; cinematographer: Horacio Marquinez; editor: Keith Reamer; cast: Adrien Brody (Ray), Michael Gallagher (Mike), Tony Gillan (Butchie), Sybil Temchen (Joanne), Lisa Roberts (Linda), James E. Moriarty (Donny), Frank Vincent (Ray Sr.); Runtime: 108; Palisades Pictures; 1997)
“The title refers to the shoe size of Paul Newman.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This independent film written and directed by Eric Bross has the look and feel of all those other troubled blue-collar youth films that have inundated the market in recent times. It is hard to tell what exactly is independent; it might as well have been made in Hollywood. It is the debut film for the director who tells his personal story about Italians growing up with heavy New Jersey accents and remaining tight with each other as they grow into young adults, a tale which could have been rewarding to see in the 1950s where the mind-set of all the characters depicted is grounded; but, to see it in the 1990s is a different story: it is old news.

There is a superficial love story between the simple girl waiting to get married and her luckless boyfriend. The problem is, that their relationship remained undeveloped. What dominates the film are the wiseguys and how they figure out all the angles, and their steadfast loyalty.

The best thing about the film is the tour-de-force performance by Adrien Brody. Ray (Brody) is the only son of a low-level mobster once arrested for running an illegal casino operation out of his Bloomfield, New Jersey, suburban basement. Ray Sr. (Vincent) is now trying to make a go of it by running a small-scale home-repair business. His son lives with him and works unhappily as a shoe salesman, dreaming of getting rich quickly so he can open a business and marry his long-time waitress girlfriend Joanne (Sybil).

The title refers to the shoe size of Paul Newman-10B, which really has nothing to do with explaining anything about the film. But, there are a lot of things about this film that are not compelling: the constant brainless chatter between the buddies, their uneventful growing pains, and the emptiness of their lives.

Desperate to make his dream come through Ray goes to a loan shark, humorously and menacingly played by James E. Moriarty, and borrows 10 grand to bet on a “sure thing” at Freehold Raceway. The horse loses and now Ray has big problems, as the loan shark comes after him with his muscle to get his dough.

There is nothing I have seen so far to like about Ray. He’s mean-spirited and stupid, and is not dependable. So when his best friend Mike (Gallagher), the narrator of the film, gets a chance to sleep with his girlfriend–who cares?

As for Ray’s gambling debt and his dilemma of how to pay it off, the story is too predictable for anything other than what you would expect. His buddies, the college student Mike and the dependable Butchie (Gillan), and his old man, whom he has this love/hate relationship with, rally to his aid. And the film ends on an obligatory artistic note of ambiguity, that seems to be the way it is for all these wannabe indie artistic films. It ends as Ray is off to Florida all by his lonesome to try to put his life together.

There was just not enough going on to keep the film interesting, though Adrien Brody showed signs that he could be a future star. He reminds me of Sean Penn.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”