10th and Wolf (2006)
"The day after my 12th birthday I found out that my father killed people for a living."- Tommy (James Marsden)
Stars: James Marsden, Giovanni Ribisi, Brad Renfro, Piper Perabo
Other Stars: Dennis Hopper, Lesley Ann Warren, Dash Mihok, Brian Dennehy, Val Kilmer
Director: Bobby Moresco
MPAA Rating: R for (strong brutal violence, pervasive language, some drug content, and sexuality/nudity)
Run Time: 01h:48m:08s
Release Date: 2006-09-19
DVD ReviewThe American gangster movie continues to thrive in Hollywood, thanks perhaps to the success of The Sopranos and an undying love for The Godfather. This is the latest entry in the genre, a picture shot mostly in Pittsburgh (my wife had the opportunity to watch an evening of the shoot), and starring some of the most talented young actors working today. After sitting on the shelf for nearly two years and finally screening at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, the movie got the most limited of theatrical releases just over a month ago. The theater-to-DVD window continues to get smaller, with 10th and Wolf already bowing on the shiny little disc a month later.
We meet Tommy (James Marsden) as he returns from the first Gulf War, having assaulted an MP and stolen a military Jeep. Facing harsh punishment, Tommy is approached by FBI agents Horvath (Brian Dennehy) and Thornton (Leo Rossi), who want him to get in deep with a group of mobsters (some of which happen to be his family members) in exchange for his freedom. The Feds are gunning for crime boss Reggio (Francesco Salvi), and threaten Tommy with legal action against not only his cousin, Joey (Giovanni Ribisi), but his younger brother Vincent (Brad Renfro), as well. Once entrenched in this criminal underworld, Tommy becomes romantically involved with Brandy (Piper Perabo), whose husband was killed by Joey's lackey, Junior (Dash Mihok). Now in deeper than ever, Tommy struggles to choose whether to stay loyal to the Feds or those he loves.
In dealing with such gangster-oriented films, it's almost always a requirement that the viewer become invested in numerous characters within and outside "the family." In the case of 10th and Wolf, such ancillary characters are kept to more of a minimum than usual. Still, the major problem is that it becomes increasingly harder to keep each person's characteristics straight as the film progresses. This confused approach robs it of any type of flow, and keeps the audience too busy asking questions like, "which one of those is Tommy's cousin?" and "whose death does she want to avenge again?" Most avid movie fans don't want each and every story element spoon-fed to them, but if such ambiguity comes at the expense of a fluid, engrossing story, then it is a huge detriment.
The promotional material references the true story of Donnie Brasco as inspiration. 10th & Wolf does directly involve an FBI informant becoming intimate with the mob, but it bears very little resemblance to the Al Pacino/Johnny Depp film that is supposedly more in tune with the Brasco tale. The general premise of 10th and Wolf is interesting, and the story is very brutal at times, but coming from the co-writer of Crash (which, given its many shortcomings did win the Best Picture Oscar), I expected quite a bit more character development, and much less confusion.
10th & Wolf is worth checking out, though, if only for the amazing cameo by the great Val Kilmer. About mid-way through the film, Val unexpectedly pops up in a bar as a downtrodden drunk who muses about losing his son in the Gulf War. Despite the numerous reports of on-set trouble throughout his career, there's no denying that when Val's on the screen, you simply have to watch what he'll do next. It's too bad he didn't come back for more later in the film. Truly, despite the script's problems and director (and co-writer) Bobby Moresco's standard directing style, 10th and Wolf features numerous stand-out acting performances. If ever there was a group of actors that almost saved a film, it's this brilliant mix of veteran character performers and up-and-coming "it" boys. Unfortunately, the key word here is "almost."
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation features mostly sharp and detailed images. There are a few instances where an overabundance of grain and dirt holds the transfer back, but the well-handled shadow and contrast level basically overwrite these shortcomings. The color scheme is appropriately drab and dark, while blacks are nice and deep.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: There are both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks, and, unsurprisingly, the 5.1 is the one to pick. Unfortunately, the mix suffers from an imbalance as far as the volume of the dialogue goes. I had to ramp up the volume higher than normal just to hear what many of the actors were saying, and, subsequently be have my ears blown out by surprising gunfire. This is an odd audio flaw for such a new film.
Audio Transfer Grade: C-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring The King, Little Athens, Down in the Valley, Awesome, I...Shot That
5 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Writer/director Bobby Moresco, actor/producer Leo Rossi, and editor Harvey Rosenstock.
Packaging: Keep Case
Extras Review: The focal point of the decent extras package is the filmmaker commentary with writer/director Bobby Moresco, actor/producer Leo Rossi, and editor Harvey Rosenstock. This trio touches on all aspects of the production, including a great discussion about Val Kilmer's unforgettable cameo.
There's a 23-minute featurette that takes an extended look at the 33rd day of shooting that involved a gate explosion scene. We get extensive footage of how it came together, from interviews with the crew to construction of some of the props.
We also get five deleted scenes running for just under 11 minutes. These are mostly extensions of existing scenes, but they are still worth a look.
Finishing up the extras are the original theatrical trailer and previews for other THINKFilm releases.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsAfter a two-year delay, 10th and Wolf follows up an ever-so-brief, limited theatrical release with a fine DVD debut courtesy of THINKFilm. It's too bad that the delay was warranted—this modern crime saga is full of too many characters that are never fleshed out, despite the valiant effort of its stellar cast. The disc itself sports nice audio and video along with a smattering of bonus material.
Chuck Aliaga 2006-09-28