Director Sidney Lumet is eighty-one and a legend thanks to New York classics such as Network and Dog Day Afternoon. Lumet returns to his roots with this fact-based drama about the trial of twenty members of the Lucchese crime family in 1987. Sadly, Lumet's skill at bringing out the juice in actors isn't enough to save the film from overkill. Vin Diesel — you heard right — as Jackie DiNorscio, a hood who serves as his own lawyer, alienating the judge (Ron Silver) and a mob boss (Alex Rocco, terrific). "I'm no gangster, judge," says Jackie, "I'm a gagster." With a script drawn from trial transcripts, the film gives Jackie the floor. Diesel, saddled with a bad wig and overextended comic business, is clearly jazzed to escape the shallows of The Pacifier. But except for a scene with the electrifying Annabella Sciorra as Jackie's ex-wife, Diesel cuts up when he should cut deep. Charge the movie with the same crime and you'll find it guilty.
From The Archives Issue 111: June 22, 1972