One question I’m frequently asked is how I choose all the movies I review for this blog. I guess some people are surprised at how many films I watch in a given week, so they want to know how I pick them out. Are they recommendations from other people? Are my choices based on awards or actors? Do I have specific criteria when choosing films to watch?
Well, the short answer to all of these questions is, “No.” I usually just go to one of the video stores in my area and pick three or four films off the shelf. Sometimes I read the back of the box to find out what the movie is about; often I don’t. I figure that as long as I haven’t seen it before, it’s fair game.
Obviously this approach has its pros and cons. On the one hand, I sometimes end up discovering great movies that I might not have otherwise seen. On the other, I sometimes pick out horrible films that do nothing more than waste two hours of my life. The 2006 film 10th & Wolf was somewhere in between these extremes.
Plot summary (with possible spoilers): James Marsden stars as Tommy, a young man from the 10th & Wolf neighborhood of South Philly who spends all of his free time hanging out with younger brother Vincent (played by Brad Renfro) and cousin Joey (Giovanni Ribisi).
There’s a heavy mafia presence in the area, but Tommy is determined that neither he nor Vincent should get involved. Joey is a different story, however, as his father was reportedly gunned down by a mob hitman. Joey then makes a revenge hit, and is immediately drawn into mob life.
Tommy, meanwhile, decides to join the Marines to get out of the area. It doesn’t suit him, though, and he ends up getting drunk, punching out a superior officer, and stealing a jeep in Kuwait. Facing a court martial upon his return to the States, Tommy is approached by two FBI agents, Horvath (Brian Dennehy) and Thornton (Leo Rossi) with a deal: if Tommy wears a wire around his cousin Joey and helps lead the agents to a high-ranking mob boss, they’ll let Tommy off scot-free.
The rest of the film then shows how Tommy struggles with the decision of whether or not to betray Joey to save his own skin — and Vincent’s. He inevitably gets drawn deeper and deeper into Joey’s world, and ends up facing some tragic consequences.
My Reaction: I recently finished watching another lightweight mob movie (Brooklyn Rules), so I guess it should come as no surprise that I didn’t like this one either. 10th & Wolf was similar to BR in many respects, and none of them were good.
As with Scott Caan in BR, I just couldn’t buy Giovanni Ribisi as some badass gangster wannabe in this film. He doesn’t have the look, build, or mannerisms to pull off that kind of character, so I had a hard time trying not to laugh whenever he was on the screen.
Also, I found the Vincent character to be annoyingly inconsistent. In some scenes Tommy and Joey just refer to him as dumb or slow, mostly because Vincent didn’t finish 8th grade. But in other scenes, Brad Renfro plays the character as a person suffering from autism, what with the rocking and hand-wringing and everything. It was hard to figure out what exactly was going on with that character, and it was highly distracting.
James Marsden was ok as Tommy, which helped make the film a bit more tolerable. As Tommy was in almost every scene, the movie had the potential to be god-awful if Marsden played the character in a grating way.
As for the storyline — well, there’s not really much I can say about it. It was typical of the genre, held no surprises whatsoever, and had a fair amount of bloodshed. There were a couple of over-the-top characters as well, including Murtha (what was that all about?) and the dumb-as-rocks Jimmy Tattoo (Tommy Lee).
As a whole, I thought 10th & Wolf was a boring film that did nothing to distinguish itself in the gangster genre. I give it 2 stars out of 5, and advise you to skip it.