Coming out alive from a life of mafia seems like a next to
impossible task. For Michael Franzese, however, that task was
accomplished... he just may be the luckiest man in the world. He
not only made a name for himself in the mob, but also his post-mob
life. Franzese is a former New York mobster with the Colombo crime
family who was heavily involved in the gasoline tax rackets in the
1980's. Since then, he has publicly renounced organized crime. He
has found much success with publishing a novel and becoming a
motivational speaker (quite a change of pace from mob life). I've
always been more than fascinated with anything mob related. So this
mob documentary seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out a
story I was unfamiliar with. Does this make my
passing grade? Read on.
Through interviews with Michael and a few other experts on the
subject, this documentary covers the intricacies on the inner
workings of the mob. A great deal is explained of the various ranks
of the organization. The culture and rules of mob life are divulged
in just how one can move up and make money as well as handle matters
with the law. We hear a bit about the infamous sit down. Part of
what is great about this documentary is that it lacks biases. It
never tries to glamorize life in the mafia nor does it pass
judgement on Franzese.
Most of the documentary focuses on Michael's first-hand
experience with being in the mob. We hear much of the gasoline
scandal of the 1980's. It started off simple by avoiding the tax gas
stations had to pay for gasoline. When the government got wise to
their act, they started charging tax directly on the product instead
of the stations. This only helped the mafia. They could just scrape
the tax off of the gasoline suppliers instead. It was quite an
ingenious scheme. This made loads of money for both the mafia and
Franzese. If this makes you wonder why Franzese would ever give up
such a good life, that is all explained here and in great detail.
I have often wondered about the danger of mob life and this
documentary only reaffirms those fears. Michael was involved in
various close calls during his mob life. He gives a haunting
recollection of a meeting in which he was moments away from being
killed. Michael's father (who was also a mobster) wouldn't do a
thing to help him. Franzese did do time in prison during the 80's.
He is indicted on several racketeering, counterfeiting charges, in
addition to his role in the gasoline scandal. It was in 1987 that he
decided he had enough of the mob life. Michael Franzese would
probably be dead today if not for his unpredictability. He
constantly changed his routine to throw off any potential enemies
that were out to get him. It's refreshing to see a story like this
have a happy ending. Usually with these stories, there isn't a good
ending. Death seems inevitable, but that's not the case here.
Michael's story is inspiring, but also cautionary.
The Video: The 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is solid. Colors are detailed and
accurate and the print used is free of dirt and other defects. We
get various archival photos and clips, but they're integrated
nicely. This transfer should please fans.
The Audio: We get a Dolby 5.1 track and a standard 2.0 track as well. I sampled
the latter as well and both are quite fine. The rear channels don't
get a lot of use, but when they do everything comes across nicely.
Both tracks present the documentary well.
The Extras: Zilch, nothing here except for some trailers.
The Definitive Guide to the Mob gives us a nice overview of
life in the mafia. It shows the ups and downs and offers an honest
look at what it takes to be in the mob. The 90 minute running time
zipped by and held my interest. For those interested, it's worth