"Brooklyn Rules" is a period piece about three friends growing up in Brooklyn during the rise and fall of John Gotti. The story is told through the eyes of Michael Turner (Freddie Prinze Jr.), a boy with the gift of gab and a skill for short con at a very early age. His friends are prettyboy, wiseguy-in-training Carmine Mancuso, played by Scott Caan and neurotic, penny-pinching Bobby Canzoneri, played by Entourage's Jerry Ferrara.
The film opens with the trio ditching mass to hang out by the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge frame prominently behind them. They come across a dead man, riping in the driving seat of his convertible. Bobby takes away the puppy in the back seat, Carmine takes the cigarettes from the dashboard, and Michael takes the gun from the glove compartment. All in one scene, we see who is the heart, who is the hardened and who is the brains of the three.
Jump ahead more than a decade and we find that the three are still in the neighborhood, entrenched more than ever in their differences, but still bound to each other by the stubborn ties of a shared childhood. Bobby flounders with proposing to his steady and getting a job at the post office. Carmine is courted by Caesar Manganaro (Alec Baldwin), a ruthless lieutenant in the local organized crime scene. And Michael is about to graduate college, looking forward to becoming a lawyer since the profession suits his complete lack of conscience.
Then Michael meets the beautiful and smart Ellen, played by Mena Suvari. She comes from an upscale social set where Michael tries and sometimes succeeds in fitting in. But there is no place for his friends from the neighborhood. Carmine's growing involvement with Manganaro begins to bring the mob violence closer to their tight circle. Both factors start to drive a wedge between the close friends. They struggle to remain friends as the world around them continues to change, invariable affection the path to manhood for each of them.
I enjoyed this movie just fine. The performances were fine, the story was fine. Across the board, most of the production elements were fine. Unfortunately, this film does not deliver beyond that.
The film was essentially an elaborate, 99-minute series of close-ups, constantly cutting back and forth over shoulder to shoulder to shoulder. I never got a sense of any chemistry between the performers because two characters were rarely in the same frame at one time. Other than master shots and establishing shot, the audience really does not get a sense of the actors, acting together in the same moment, much less the same movie.
There were a few camera movements in the form of pans either up or down. No slow pushing in to capture intimacy, no pulling out to reveal the scene slowly. There was no rhythm in the scenes and thus no real opportunity for the audience to become emotionally involved with the drama. I am acquainted with the style the director was perhaps going for. However, despite the crime genre, that particular choice did the narrative a great disservice.
'Brooklyn Rules' opens in limited release on May 18, 2007.
Rating: R for violence, pervasive language, and some sexual content.
Running Time: 99 minutes