Apparently the first thing a leading lady wants to do after she wins an Oscar is star in a horror movie. Halle Berry did it with Gothika, Jennifer Connelly did it with Dark Water, and Hilary Swank did it with The Reaping. The screenwriter side of the equation seems to be: Immediately after winning an Oscar, I aim to head on out and direct one of the most conventionally-told and painfully familiar mobster flicks imaginable. That's what Crash co-writer Bobby Moresco did. With his Oscar tucked firmly under his belt, the guy went out and directed his first feature: 10th & Wolf, a flick that might seem original and fresh -- provided you've never seen anything directed by Martin Scorsese and his dozens of imitators.
James Marsden plays a young man who returns home to Philadelphia after a war-filled stint in Kuwait. He discovers that his slow-witted little brother (Brad Renfro) has fallen in with his now-maniacal crime kingpin cousin (Giovanni Ribisi) -- oh, and Marsden's also working for the cops. Like, as a mole. Like you didn't see that twist coming. Scattered throughout the margins are old secrets, new flames, angst, betrayal, and lots of cliches and stereotypes. If there's a new idea to be found in 10th & Wolf, I'd love to know where it was hiding.
Marsden delivers a blank lead performance while Ribisi is allowed to chew scenery at a De Niro-style pace. Piper Perabo, as pretty as ever, leaves next to no impression as a barmaid with a shady past; Renfro is all tics and whines; even the great Brian Dennehy seems completely bored by the cop jargon he's been asked to spew. Bizarre cameos from the likes of Val Kilmer, Dennis Hopper, and Tommy Lee add nothing to the proceedings, except perhaps in the area of Unintentional Amusements.
The thing plays out precisely like you've been expecting from frame one. This mob gang pushes the other one too far, blood is spilled, childhood friendships are shattered, and someone finds out that someone else is actually a back-stabbin' undercover cop and boy isn't all so shocking...
"Conventional" is the key word of the day here, and if 10th & Wolf had come from a first-time (and inexperienced) screenwriter, you could write it off as "a nice try, but I've seen The Godfather and Donnie Brasco about 65 times already." But coming from a guy who just won an Oscar for screenwriting? One has the right to expect something a little less rote, redundant, and oppressively familiar as 10th & Wolf.
Still, Ribisi does deliver a pretty fun performance...
Video: The anamorphic widescreen transfer is shadowy, dark, and not all that fantastic. TV movie-level quality, it seems.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0, with all that deja vu dialogue presented in fine form.
Extras: There's a typically dry and self-adoring audio commentary with writer/director Bobby Moresco, actor/producer Leo Rossi, and editor Harvey Rosenstock. It's a bland chat-track from stem to stern, with the participants spending all their time praising this and adoring that. Those who enjoy drinking games should do a shot of rum every time Moresco says "Ah yeah, we were lucky to have him/her."
Also included is a 24-minute behind the scenes featurette that touches upon various sections of on-set handiwork, but spends way too much time focusing on a "spectacular" gate explosion that's not really all that impressive.
Rounding out the platter are eleven minutes of deleted scenes and the original theatrical trailer.
Rent It if you're a diehard "Mean Streets" fanatic, but don't expect anything fresh or exciting -- aside from Giovanni Ribisi's half-intense / half-insane performance.