When Stevie D (Chris Cordone), the son of a local crime boss, Angelo (John Aprea; The Godfather Part 2), accidentally kills the son of another crime boss, Nick (Al Sapienza; House of Cards), Nick wants revenge. His plan is to hire two hitmen, Big Lou and Little Dom (Phil Idrissi and Darren Capozzi) to kill Stevie D in front of his father. Anticipating this retaliation, Angelo hires an actor who looks surprising similar to his son to pretend to be Stevie-D until Nick gets his revenge. The actor, Michael, unwittingly lives his blessed new life as Stevie D with all the perks of dating Stevie’s women, driving his cars, living in his house, and spending his money.
Now, there’s a lot to like about this film. The characters are well-defined, the story moves along well, the audience always knows more than the characters, and there’s a real charm to the way everything is put together. I especially like the performances from Idrissi and Capozzi who are following Michael around for weeks at a time, waiting for an opportunity to assassinate him while his character’s father watches. In the meantime, they treat their mission like vacation, checking out everything southern California has to offer and are even big fish-out-of-water stories than Michael is while he’s pretending to be Stevie D. Their chemistry with each other is the core of this movie to me, and while I wish they were given more to do and there was a deeper significance between their actions and the rest of the film, I thoroughly enjoyed watching them play these characters the whole way through the movie.
I also have to give credit for Chris Cordone for writing, directing, and playing the film’s lead. It can feel a bit masturbatory and amateurish for a young writer/director to also cast himself as the lead of his own movie, but Cordone very capably puts the movie together as a writer/director, and carries it as the lead. The ironic part is that I don’t care for his portrayal of Michael individually, but it’s both of his performances as Michael and Stevie D that really stand out to me about this. At first, I thought the two characters were played by two different actors who looked a lot alike, and it wasn’t until late in the film that I became sure it was the same actor playing both.
Cordone’s portrayal of Michael is fairly bland as he’s a nice guy who’s just nice to everyone and everyone is nice back, but Cordone loses himself in the more vile Stevie D character and completely transforms as the spoiled wannabe thug. The transformation between the two characters is pretty miraculous and the main reason I would recommend checking this movie out.
The main reason I would recommend skipping this film is the frustrating lack of conflict in the story. Everything here just works out for the characters in really convenient ways without any real consequences or central conflict asserting itself. The film should have an inherent tension with the audience getting to know and like Michael knowing he’s a sacrificial lamb, but given how long it takes for anything to threaten Michael’s life, it’s hard to be that worried anything bad is going to happen. There are some minor conflicts like when his girlfriend finds out he’s not who he says he is, but that resolves itself really simply.
Also, Michael’s new mob friend Lenny (Kevin Chapman; Mystic River) suddenly decides he wants to become an actor and then just basically goes off and does that without much resistence. It’s all very easy and makes it difficult for me to get invested in the characters because I know I’m not going to see them change profoundly as a result of pursuing clear wants and overcoming obstacles to get what they want. It’s a real disappointment from an otherwise very good film.
Available now on DVD from Candy Factory Films.