The Funny Side of the Longest Mafia Trial in History.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 07/05/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Find Me Guilty" is a comedic take on what was at the time the longest criminal trial in American history, the 1987-1988 trial of 20 members of the New Jersey Lucchese crime family on 76 charges under the RICO Act. Most of the courtroom testimony is taken from the real trial transcripts. The film focuses on Giacomo "Jackie" DiNorscio (Vin Diesel), called "Fat Jack" in real life, who, frustrated with his lawyer, insists on representing himself. Jackie is already serving a 30-year prison sentence for narcotics distribution, so the outcome of this trial is somewhat academic to him. Prosecutor Sean Kierney (Linus Roache) offers him a reduction in his current sentence in exchange for testimony at the RICO trial, but Jackie refuses to rat out his friends. Untrained in the law, Jackie's only defense is to make the jury like him more than they like the prosecutors. "A laughing jury is never a hanging jury," says defense attorney Ben Klandis (Peter Dinklage). "I'm not a gangster. I'm a gagster," says Jackie. And he puts on quite a show over the course of the 21-month trial.
"Find Me Guilty" does make light of Jackie's crimes, presenting him as a loyal, affable guy. It could hardly do otherwise, since Jackie made light of them, and he seems to have been a loyal, affable criminal. (Giacomo DiNorscio died while this movie was being filmed.) This obviously isn't a catalog of the Lucchese family's misdeeds. There were some very disreputable people on trial whose victims were not limited to their fellow Mafioso. "Find Me Guilty" is about Jackie's role in this long, remarkable trial. Vin Diesel does the best work of his career thus far. Perhaps due to his laconic, tough-guy image, Diesel can play Jackie's silliness, foolishness, and melodrama without the audience losing sight of his hoodlum toughness. He's a big presence that carries the film through courtroom testimony that might otherwise be tedious. DiNorscio is an interesting character, whose conviction that he must love his mob family, and they must love him, carried him through the trial and many years in prison. "Find Me Guilty"'s comedic approach to courtroom and mafia dramas is new and entertaining.
The DVD (20th Century Fox 2006): "A Conversation with Sidney Lumet" (5 min) is a series of snippets in which director Lumet talks about meeting the real Jackie DiNorscio, Jackie's motives, and authenticity in the film. There is a theatrical trailer (2 ½ min) and 3 television spots for the film (30 sec. each), as well as a trailer for the 1992 movie "My Cousin Vinny" (1 ½ min). Subtitles for the film are available in English and Spanish."
3.5 stars for this effective Mafia courtroom dramedy
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 04/23/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Fans of "The Sopranos", "Goodfellas", Mafia and courtroom flicks will enjoy this fact-based (but probably not completely factual) look at the lengthiest RICO trail in American history starring Vin Diesel and directed by octogenarian Sidney Lumet.
Diesel plays New Jersey mobster Jack DiNorscio defending himself in the longest Mafia trial in U.S. history. Diesel is effective in the role as a disruptive force in judge Ron Silver's court. Alex Rocco, a Mafioso going back to "The Godfather" and through roles he played in TV's "Kojak", is the ring leader in the trial and the main guy the feds are after. Why DiNorscio became the focus of this movie is a question looking for an answer.
In any event, the courtroom "drama" is unlike most of what you see in this kind of movie. Diesel's character is uneducated, has little or no knowledge of courtroom requirements or decorum, and shows these shortcomings regularly through his inappropriate and often unbearable behavior as a litigator.
The other gangsters on trial turn against him after they come to view him as a force out for himself. Prosecutors too see him as a hazard insofar as his comedy act seems to appeal to jurors. True or not, you've probably never seen an attorney ask these kind of questions in court!
Ironically, the film lionizes DiNorscio as a heroic figure that carries out the Mafia credo of not ratting out a brother. Throughout the film he protests his love for his Cosa Nostra brethren, even when they are working against him, and continually states his case against being a rat. This, to me, was the principal theme of the film -- that this lowlife gangster was somehow a hero. The outcome of the movie seems also to support that view.
Several bit players from "The Sopranos", including Junior Soprano's lawyer and one of Tony Soprano's dead love interests, fill out the supporting cast in this New York production. This flick is probably at the level of "The Valachi Papers" but with a far different perspective. It has little of the sizzle of "Goodfellas" but is interesting in its courtroom scenes, where much of the script allegedly mimicked the real trial the went on for more than 500 days.
So fans of gangster and courtroom flicks can cast aside any doubt and go for this movie, which is probably the best characterization Vin Diesel has put on so far. He deservedly wasn't nominated for any awards for this but it shows he can do a bit more than simply play Vin Diesel on screen."
Lumet's Failed Trial
Bennet Pomerantz | Seabrook, Maryland | 04/21/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Vin Diesel plays Giacomo "Jackie Dee" DiNorscio, who in a strange turn of events defended himself in a Gangland Rico trial, that was the longest trial in US history. You can not tell if he is acting or joking thru is role
Sisney Lumet who directed Network, Dog Day Afternoon, The Verdict and 12 Angry Men seems weak in this drama/comedy. He has made the courtroom seem so close and tight, you feel you need a breath of air every ten minutes.
I will say Lumet stocked the deck with great stock actors like Ron Silver (as a no nonsense, by the book judge), Peter Dinklage (as a defense attorney), Alex Rocco, and (the too short a role that needed to be padded) Annabella Sciorra. I just wish the script and direction was as good as the actors
This drama/comedy is strong of humor and weak on dramatic moments. One of the worst when the Judge tells Jackie he lost his mother is so weak for the acting timbers of Diesel and Silver. Lumet seem to have lacked pacing and direction in this film. This film could have been a great film, but it was not.
I give it 3 stars for the acting, it is worth it for that
Bennet Pomerantz AUDIOWORLD
"Never rat out your pals"
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 06/28/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Find Me Guilty - obviously a vehicle for jumpstarting Vin Diesel's "serious" acting career - is such an uneven film, and while it delivers up a few good laughs - especially in the first act - the film is profoundly short on drama and suspense, and it ultimately sinks under the weight of a leaden stodgy script, an overly long third part and an awkward, stilted performance by Diesel.
Part crime story and part-court room drama, Find Me Guilty is the real life story of New Jersey mobster named Jackie DiNorscio (Diesel) already serving time on a drug conviction, who in 1987 refused to turn state's witness against some 20 of his former associates in the Lucchese crime family.
There was obviously no love lost between Jackie and the Lucchese's, but Jackie consistently proves his loyalty and never turns against them. Fed up with his legal representation DiNorscio also chose to defend himself in what would become, at 21 months, the longest criminal trial in U.S. history.
As much of the action takes place within the courtroom the lawyers and mobsters - there's a whole table of defendants - all jockeying for position in an overcrowded courtroom with the ecstatically inexperienced Jackie mounting arguments based on wily good humor as he tries to win over the jury with his ribald and off-center jokes.
Directed by Sidney Lumet, Find Me Guilty is more intent to let the dialogue move the story along, using satire to present these beloved mobsters. We all know that these men are a bunch of crooks, intent to scam the system and even commit murder from time to time, but Lumet is more concerned with building their case on an amoral smugness, presenting them as a bunch of big, cuddly family men, who in the end, just want to be respected and loved.
There are some good supporting players here particularly Peter Dinklage who plays an eloquent dwarf attorney and who holds the courtroom rapt with his every utterance. And Annabella Sciorra shows up in a quick, charged turn as Jackie's former wife. The obnoxious lead government prosecutor played by Linus Roache injects some much-needed life into the proceedings, especially later on.
Ironically, the prosecutor is more insufferable and loathsome many of the mobsters. I guess that's why the jury reached the verdict they did and it also shows that the government can be just as ruthless as the people they attempt to bring to justice.
I feel a little sorry for poor Vin, he's obviously a competent actor, but in this case an overly talky script hampers him and unfortunately he has a voice that rarely rises about the monotone. He looks good with his hairpiece and you really believe he could be a mobster - and there's a priceless scene involving some flatulence and car windows - but the courtroom scenes prove that the role may have been just a little bit beyond him.
The script also leaves some important questions unanswered, such as the jury's verdict, and the movie always appear to be true even although much of the courtroom dialogue was taken from trial transcripts, but this doesn't mean the movie always rings true.
There are some fun moments - after a heart attack, one gangster attends the rest of the trial in a hospital bed and there's lots of irreverent profanity thrown every which way, but the film, which clocks in at just over two hours comes across as overlong and stodgy - a little bit like the trial itself - and in the end, you really have to wonder whether these guys were as funny as the move makes them out to be. Mike Leonard June 06.