It seems likely that “The Sopranos” is to blame for the unfortunate rise of mafia spoofs in the last few years. Granted, some were better than others. Analyze This was an amusing diversion and further proof that DeNiro can be funny, given the right material. “Mafia!”, which actually predated the HBO show by a year (to be fair), was much funnier than it had any right to be. On the flip side though, Corky Romano was an abomination and Analyze That was further proof that DeNiro can be painfully unfunny, given the wrong material. Thus, I had approached Blake Calhoun’s “Hit: A Mobumentary Film” with some trepidation. Does the world really need another satire about organized crime? Well, it appears the answer is yes, if they’re as funny as this one.
Owing more to mockumentaries like This Is Spinal Tap and “Waiting for Guffman” than to any of those other mafia spoofs, “Hit” is an original and often very amusing “underworld” romp. Much like “Tap”, it centers on a once respected and powerful crime family, the Pascadelli’s, that has since fallen on hard times. The Pascadelli’s were once so powerful, in fact, that they used to run prostitution rings, assassinate foreign leaders, the works. You name an illegal activity, they probably had their hand in it. Scary criminal masterminds, well sort of. At one point, Paul Pascadelli (Paul Slavens), the head of the family, proudly recalls that it was they who introduced cocaine to Des Moines. And we all know it doesn’t get much bigger than Des Moines! Recent times have been tough for the Pascadelli’s however. The boss has gone soft and lost his criminal edge. (He now advocates that breaking people’s legs may be a bit extreme and that simply spraining them might be more civil.) Their gambling debt collector (Oliver Tull) has to bike around town since his car was taken by a rival family. They no longer get the best tables at their favorite restaurants. Even the FBI agent assigned to their case is frustrated at their lack of any real criminal activity. In one hilarious scene, Paul’s nephew and underboss, Tommy (Troy Grant) goes to collect a debt with his baby daughter strapped to his chest. After putting the squeeze on the guy, he calmly asks, “Got any skim milk?” In short, the once (supposedly) powerful Pascadelli empire has been reduced to four sorry has-beens leaning on doughnut shops in the heart of suburbia.
Much of the film was apparently improvised and the four leads are definitely game. The vaguely Viggo Mortensen-ish Frank Ford is especially funny as a mobster trying to break into stand-up comedy with decidedly awful results. Conceiving the film as a mockumentary, or I guess “mobumentary”, was simply inspired. The inevitable reaction shots of faux-documentarian Robert Brewer (David Wilk) are always perfectly timed and hysterical. This could easily have been Christopher Guest’s next foray in the genre. The formula is not always successful though and the film runs a little too long. By the time two “independent contractors” show up to add muscle to the troubled family, the film has all but run out of steam.
My problem with “The Sopranos” has always been that it doesn’t know if it is supposed to be a comedy or a drama and as a result is usually an uneven mix of the two. “Hit”, however, is a full-fledged comedy that “hits” way more often than it misses.