The realm of mafia pictures in Hollywood is such a vast genre these days that entering into the fray could be daunting, but it is doubtful that writer, director, and star Danny Provenzano felt any such intimidation. He has been convicted of mob-type activity and has family connections to The Family, and just as important he has contacts with numerous Hollywood vets of mafia productions. Stalwarts such as Frank Vincent and Vincent “Big P***y” Pastore are co-stars and longtime friends, and even James Caan makes a cameo, book ending the film as the family don. More important still, Provenzano knows how to distinguish his film from the glut of similar titles on the subject.
While there is bountiful material to be mined from underworld activities it has been a select few films that have concentrated on the current state of organized crime. This is where “This Thing of Ours” excels, by occupying the characters with contemporary crime methods. Stories have surfaced in recent years about the mob engaging in Internet graft and stock swindles, and Provenzano follows this example. Rather than following hoods as they boost freight and ‘jack trucks, we watch as some low-level thugs concoct a scheme involving computer technology and international finance.
The story has subtle humor as the new breed youths try to convince the elder statesmen that this is more than a worthwhile investment. During a traditional multi-family sit down the talk of satellite algorithms and encryption codes panics some of the old breed. One boss pulls his money off the table in confusion while another storms off in a thunderclap of befuddlement. The best line comes from one silver-hair member talking about the graphics on his kid’s computer. “You ever see those games? I can’t take all that killing.”
The movie brings other original touches, such as a scene in the restaurant with the young mobsters, which is unique in that Provenzano allows for the self-deprecation of his, and another, character. Think of all the mob movies where every player is a boisterous and dangerous braggart and you can appreciate this unique character trait. It allows for them to become more than one note demons.
The modern use of technology also infuses some tired mob practices with a wry twist. The FBI is on the tail of this group, but they have been stymied by the use of jamming devices that render their bugging microphones impotent. This compels the Feds to arrest the gang on loose charges in the hopes of shaking information out of them, but the guys get the upper hand on the Feebs with surveillance and get the charges tossed.
Eventually the crew gets the seed money to buy a computer chip that allows them to siphon off trace amounts of international bank exchanges. This is basically the time-honored mob practice of skimming the till, but with cutting-edge technology and in numbers that can be staggering. The amounts are slightly noticeable to the banks but the sheer volume quickly brings in boggling amounts for The Family–amounts so large, in fact, that the kingpin who abandoned the project now wants in, bringing violent behavior from both sides. And in the end while the guys bring modern money making techniques to the establishment the traditional family practices rear up in stark fashion.
There is a chance to criticize the heavy use of mob clichés here. There is plenty of talk of people “getting clipped” and guys “getting their button”, and there are plenty of pinkie rings and cigars that could be used to hit a curve ball. But many of these common touches are in place to illustrate the new blood that is coming into the family. The young guys appear comfortable without too many of the usual trappings. Maybe the biggest complaint is that some scenes play too long and the film could have been helped with a tighter edit. But the production in general is well shot and the acting of the leads is dependably good.
“This Thing of Ours” may not be elevated into the pantheon with Scorsese and Coppola, but it does not try to join them either. As a modern mob fable there is plenty to impress, as Provenzano’s documented legal troubles bring validation to the story and the appearances of Pastore and Vincent bring credibility to the screen.