Some of the funniest parts of “The Syndicate,” director Allan Steele’s short film about three car wash employees, who decide to make the move to organized crime, are unfortunately derived from other films. Ringleader Nicky “The Nose” Nicoletti (Rick Pasqualone) does great impressions of Al Pacino and Marlon Brando in the “Godfather” movies (as well as Burgess Meredith in “Rocky III”). But did we really need to cop two songs from the “Office Space” soundtrack, including the one that would invite the most recognition: Geto Boys’ “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta?”
Nicky and his compadres, dim Jimmy “The Gent” (wasn’t that in “Goodfellas?”) Gianelli (Sonny Marinelli) and brooding Joey (Joey) decide on the change in lifestyle after reading about a “gaping hole in the organized crime hierarchy” in the New York Post. The only things standing in their way are money, experience, and even the faintest inkling of how to be a smooth criminal. The three seem to be the only ones unaware that their plan is ludicrous, and their attempts at “doing crimes” fail spectacularly.
The performances are fairly solid, especially Pasqualone and John O’Donohue as a dry cleaner who easily teaches the budding felons a lesson in how not to run a protection racket. The climactic “Reservoir Dogs” style standoff, only with BB guns in place of Berettas, is also pretty outstanding. Sadly the scenes that don’t directly/indirectly riff on other movies don’t play as well. Viewed as a straight-up send-up of wiseguy movies, “The Syndicate” is an okay bit of filmmaking. Too bad more of the original bits don’t hold up.