09th Apr2015

‘By the Gun’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Tully Banta-Cain, Ben Barnes, Paul Ben-Victor, William Bloomfield, Bonnie Belle Skinner, Ritchie Coster, Damien Di Paola, Armen Garo, Jay Giannone, Toby Jones, Harvey Keitel, Leighton Meester | Written by Emilio Mauro | Directed by James Mottern

by-the-gun

You know, Martin Scorsese has a lot to answer for. Years after the likes of Mean Streets, Goodfellas and Casino, budding filmmakers are still churning out New York set mobster-movies – to ever decreasing returns. And so to By the Gun, which stars Scorsese alum Harvey Keitel, and tells yet another story of a wannabe mafioso who finally becomes a made man for it all to fall apart. Remind you of another film? It should!

By the Gun tells the story of Nick Tortano (Barnes), a smooth-talking and ambitious criminal from the streets of Boston. After years spent working and idolizing the Italian gangsters higher up the chain, he has to find a way to prove himself to his boss (Keitel) to earn his mafioso stripes… And right there you can see we’re not in for an innovative, or even original, ride.

Yes, By the Gun steals from not only Scorsese but every mafia/gangster movie that has come since. Hell, the film even name-checks Goodfellas within the first 7 minutes! It’s like the film is trying to be cool by referencing mafia movies that everyone loves in a self-referential mobster take on the 90s horror trope, but just ends up reminding you that Scorsese et al. did it a whole lot better.

To be fair, By the Gun has a great cast. Not only does Harvey Keitel appear as mobster Salvatore Vitaglia, but the line-up also includes the always reliable Paul Ben-Victor, as well as Brits Toby Jones and Ritchie Coster – who seems to have studied Robert DeNiro filmography a litte too much, seemingly channeling the made-man persona DeNiro “made” his own in the 80s/90s. But a handful of good cast members, wasted by a by-the-numbers script, can’t save this Boston-set, The Town meets Goodfellas wannabe.

But the films real mistake? It’s just dull. For the majority of By the Gun‘s run time we get nothing but mundane chatter and mafia posturingand when things finally start to happen it all feels too little, too late.

* 1/5

By the Gun is out now on DVD from Signature Entertainment.

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