Film Review: Style Wins Over Substance in ‘Mob Town’

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A gathering of mob bosses should invite a great deal of drama and intrigue but director and co-star Danny A. Abeckaser falters in building  tension in his second film “Mob Town.” There is an audience for mob films and the movie could satisfy the staunchest fans but Abeckaser can’t seem to take a promising premise and turn it into a successful movie.

Sgt. Ed Croswell (David Arquette) is a New York State Trooper, who becomes suspicious about an organized crime ring plaguing his small town in Apalachin, NY. He brings his concerns to his superiors, who encourage him to lay off because there isn’t much evidence to support his claims. Croswell refuses. There’s something in the air that’s not sitting right with him. His sense of duty leads him through the case.

Croswell’s prime suspect is Joe Barbara (Abeckaser), who is asked by top mob boss Vito Genovese (Robert Davi) to host a large gathering of bosses at his home. Barbara is honored and nervous about the opportunity, which he knows must go perfectly. He runs around town gathering all the meat that can be bought, so he can feed close to 100 people in his home.

“Mob Town” was made minimally but exceeds in the craft department. Cinematographer Hernán Toro creates a grainy texture and allows the film to feel as if it’s pulled directly from the 50s. Aided by Eric Liebrecht’s production design and Anthony Fitzgerald’s art direction, “Mob Town” does have a transportive feel.

It’s a shame Jon Carlo and Joe Gilford’s screenplay is unable to find a marriage of substance with the style. The movie runs a scant 90 minutes but gives too much focus to plot elements that don’t enhance the movie. Croswell is often eager to help single mother Natalie Passatino (Jennifer Esposito) around her house. Their budding relationship only operates as a distraction to the central premise.

The most frustrating aspect is the film’s final act. The movie took its time mounting Croswell’s case only to rush the finale. It feels like an easy out to tell the finale over with a “Three Months Later” title card but it doesn’t allow payoff when the movie tries to build suspense. “Mob Town” is not aiming to be a new mob classic. However, its mismanagement of time and focus held it back from being an entertaining outing in the genre.

“Mob Town” begins in select theaters and on VOD starting Dec. 13. Saban Films will distribute the movie.

GRADE: (★★)