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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Last I Heard (SIFF 2013) - Movie Review

Writer and director Dave Rodriguez has put together a movie that shows a different side of what its like to be a mob boss in the heart of New York. Last I Heard features a truly original story and includes a fine roster of acting talent that includes Paul Sorvino, Michael Rapaport, Chazz Palminteri, Johnny "Roast Beef" Williams and Renee Props.

Joe Scoleri (Sorvino) has spent the last 20 years in prison after living life as the top dog of his neighborhood's reigning crime family. After health issues begin to take their toll on a man who once ruled with an iron fist, Scoleri is set free to live out his final days as he sees fit. Of course, his parole officer and a team of federal agents will also be on hand to make sure he stays away from the life he has hopefully left behind.

Fortunately for Joe, his next door neighbor Bobby DiBianco (Rapaport) is willing to help out with getting him back into a daily routine as well as introducing him to a world that has changed dramatically since he last saw outside of his prison's walls. The world he left behind certainly did not include smart phones and stereos that use laser beams to pull songs off silver discs, and even the society he once knew has changed more than he ever thought it could.

What starts out as an easy transition for Joe begins to hit a few snags as members of his former "family" want to bring him back into the mix and a member of his real family has some news that leaves him broken and unsettled. As his old school values begin to clash with a world that has seemingly passed him by, Joe begins to lash out and alienate those that care for him even though deep down he knows that people like Bobby and his daughter Rita (Props) are all he has left in the world.

One of the things that impressed me most about this movie is the roster of talent that was assembled to fill out the cast. Rodriguez noted in an interview for TwoOhSix.com how there are "centuries worth of experience" when you put everyone's years of service together. Paul Sorvino alone has been in more movies than you would ever know what to do with including classics like Goodfellas and Romeo and Juliet, but has never had a role quite like this one. Michael Rapaport has also played countless characters in both movies and TV shows all the way back to his debut in 1992's Zebrahead (Yeah, I went there!) and is widely known for his consistency in delivering quality performances.

When putting together this story, Rodriguez could have taken the easy road and given the audience a story that heads down the obvious road back into "the life", but instead he chose to stay focused on the more intimate and personal connections while still keeping that obvious threat looming in the background. Every time Joe walked down the street or picked up the phone, you worried about whether or not he might make a bad decision which is exactly what drives the point of this movie home.

Add to that how Director of photography John Barr's eye keeps you firmly planted right in the middle of what is going on and you have a story you can't help but feel a part of. There were scenes where I felt like I just wanted to walk in and hang out with the people on screen whether they were hanging out in Bobby's neighborhood deli or in Joe's kitchen debating whether what was being prepared was a sauce or a gravy.

Its pretty obvious how much of a passion project this was for Mr. Rodriguez and every bit of that effort shows up on the screen from the truly original story to the brilliant casting that brings it all together. While Last I Heard may not be filled with the type of flash and style that Hollywood studios push out there, you will more than likely find yourself enjoying this window into Joe's life even more than you thought you would going in. You will get to know characters that are inherently flawed yet undoubtedly likable and you will find yourself fully invested in their lives. Give this movie a chance, you won't be disappointed.

Check out our exclusive interview with director Dave Rodriguez and members of the cast including Renee Props, Paul Ben-Victor, Andrea Navedo, Andrea Nittoli, William DePaolo, and Mario Ruffo!

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