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"The Wannabe" is not a bad go at the gangster genre but ultimately it does fall short because of some bad story decisions and lacking characters.

It starts off promising enough and I also was quite liking the movie at first, when it seemed like it was going to be all about a lowlife and wannabe gangster, with an unhealthy obsession for the mob culture and mob boss John Gotti in particular. A kind of sad and interesting character study, that however never goes deep with anything or truly explains the main character's motivations. Where does his obsession come from? Why does he want to be a gangster so bad? All questions the movie basically ignores entirely, which is a disappointing aspect but hardly the thing within its story I had the most problems with.

Like I said, there still isn't all that much wrong with the first half of the movie but it's it second half I have more problems with. Once John Gotti gets convicted (and common, that's not a spoiler!) the main character and his girlfriend/wife, played by Vincent Piazza and Patricia Arquette, go on a crime-spree and suddenly start to turn into a sort of Bonny and Clyde type of characters. Still sounds good and interesting maybe but it's also at this point that the movie turns into a more cliché and typical modern gangster flick and everything that made the first half of the movie interesting gets abandoned. The drama, the story-developments, it all seemed less interesting to me once the characters became truly despicable ones, without much redeeming qualities.

You could say that the movie problem is that the main characters are not engaging enough. All of the character changes would have been fine, as long as we all could have been able to feel for them and understand their motivations. I don't believe that the writing is at fault but it's more due to Nick Sandow's inexperience and inability as a director to tell an engaging story, with an effective build up and great character handling in it.

I can also see how Martin Scorsese came involved with this and why he must have liked the story, which also got written by Nick Sandow, who's still better known as an actor. It in essence remains a good gangster story about the rise and fall of a 'nobody', set in an interesting time period in the intriguing and dark world of organized crime. I doesn't mean all that much though that Scorsese;s name is attached to this. I mean, it's not like he was involved with the production of it or ever was around the on the set or anything. It's just a seal of approval and evidence he saw potential in it, or thought it was an important movie to get produced. Don't know how pleased he was with the end result though.

It's still far from a terrible movie though. It's a well paced one, with still plenty of interesting story ideas in it, that sometimes do work out well for the movie. It perhaps could have done some more with the dramatic and romantic angles of the story but overall the movie is still doing a good enough job with all of it. Good enough anyway to ensure that this movie never suffers too much from any its flaws and weaknesses.

It also has some pretty good acting in it. It's not exactly another "True Romance" like performance or role from Patricia Arquette but it's still pretty impressive to see how convincingly she plays a woman who is much younger her own age. And Vincent Piazza maybe doesn't look right for the part, he does still give a pretty good performance and does the best he could with his character. Maybe it's also true that the movie could have used some stronger supporting characters in it. It certainly seemed to have all of the right actors already in the movie for it.

Far from the most perfect or most memorable genre movie you'll ever see but as far as these low-budget, 'wannabe' gangster movies go, this one really isn't all that bad and definitely worth giving a go once.

6/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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