In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_w2uuoixk7hdicsstmrquj98tgaw

Selma

Selma is a powerful, emotional film that works in moments both big and small. It announces the major talents of director Ava DuVernay and has…

Thumb_mncop6acbxx1tmbqk7gji6rvocl

Into the Woods

The singing is often splendid. The bits of humor are deftly handled. The pace is relatively swift. And it never feels like a static rendition…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

The Pope of Greenwich Village

  |  

Everybody is very ethnic in "The Pope of Greenwich Village." They all wave their hands a lot, and hang out on street corners, and have uncles in the Mafia. They have such bonds of blood brotherhood, a cousin to them is closer than your mother is to you. And they've always got some kind of con game going on the side. Take Paulie, for example. He knows this racehorse that's selling for $15,000, only the joke is, this is a champion horse because it was sired with sperm stolen directly from the winner of the Belmont. Paulie explains about the horse while he has his mouth full of a hero sandwich that's a yard long. His cousin, Charlie, tells him he's crazy. That is a compliment in this family.

Paulie and Charlie have just been fired from their jobs at a restaurant for stealing from the management. Charlie is hard up. He can no longer support his girlfriend, a long-limbed, blond aerobics instructor who seems attracted to his exotic ethnic charm. Paulie has the answer to their problems. He will buy the future champion racehorse with money from a juice loan and then pay off the loan by cracking a safe he has heard about. There is only one problem with this plan. The safe belongs to the Mafia godfather of Greenwich Village, and if he finds out who did it, not even Paulie's uncle in the Mafia can save them. Meanwhile, Charlie's girlfriend is pregnant, Paulie's car has been towed, a cop has killed himself falling down an elevator shaft, and on the sound track Frank Sinatra is singing "Summer Wind."

"The Pope of Greenwich Village" bills itself as a drama and is structured like a crime thriller, but I categorize it as basically a Behavior Movie. The real subject of the movie is the behavior of the characters, and the story is essentially an excuse for showboat performances. This movie is an actor's dream, and the actors involved are Eric Roberts, fresh from his triumph in "Star 80," as Paulie; Mickey Rourke, the hero of "Diner," as Charlie; Daryl Hannah, right after her hit in "Splash," as the aerobics instructor; and the usual supporting types like Tony Musante as the uncle, Burt Young --stuffing his face with pasta -- as the godfather, and Geraldine Page as the tough-talking mother of the dead cop. Also, Kenneth McMillan has a well-acted key role as an old safecracker who gets caught in the middle of the whole deal.

There are times when "The Pope of Greenwich Village" seems to aspire to some great meaning, some insight into crime like "The Godfather" had. But the tip-off is the last shot, where the boys have a happy-go-lucky walk down the street and into a freeze frame, while Sinatra is trotted out for his third encore. This movie is not really about anything except behavior, and the only human drama in it is the story of the safecracker and his family. That doesn't mean it's not worth seeing. The behavior is well-observed, although Eric Roberts has a tendency to go over the top in his mannered performance, and the last two scenes are highly unlikely. It's worth seeing for the acting, and it's got some good laughs in it, and New York is colorfully observed, but don't tell me this movie is about human nature, because it's not; it's about acting.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

The Ten Best Films of 2014

The ten best films of 2014, as chosen by the film critics of RogerEbert.com.

Roger Moore's Best: "The Spy Who Loved Me"

An FFC comments on Roger Moore's best James Bond film, "The Spy Who Loved Me."

The Ten Best TV Programs of 2014

The best television programs of 2014.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus