18th Aug2021

‘The Birthday Cake’ Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Shiloh Fernandez, William Fichtner, Vincent Pastore, Val Kilmer, Ewan McGregor, Lorraine Bracco, Penn Badgley, Luiz Guzman, Jeremy Allen White | Written by Jimmy Giannopolous, Diomedes Raul Bermudez, Shiloh Fernandez | Directed by Jimmy Giannopolous

I don’t know what kind of a mood I was in when I sat down to watch The Birthday Cake but what I do know is that this movie did very little to clear up my state of mind. All I really knew was that this cast is a delectable smorgasbord of actors I love seeing up on the screen: William Fichtner, Vincent Pastore, Val Kilmer, Ewan McGregor, Lorraine Bracco and many many more, How could I go into this with low expectations? I actually had [semi] high-hopes to see what debutant writer/director Jimmy Giannopolous wass capable of – espeically with a cast that surely could shine up the dirtiest of turds with some stellar acting! I mean come on seriously even if the script is bad and the movie is bad we are going to have some really good performances, right? Well, let’s find out…

It’s the tenth anniversary of Gio’s fathers death and the task of taking the cake to his uncle Angelo’s house has fallen on him. Uncle Angelo is one of the last of his kind, a true Brooklyn gangster, soon Gio finds himself balls deep in Murder, Violence and Corruption as his life is going to change forever when he finds out some truths about his fathers death.

I have got to say that the first 10 minutes of The Birthday Cake are absolutely stunning. Its beautifully shot, well acted and could easily hang with some of the best Sopranos episodes, with a veteran turn from William Fichtner. We cut 10 years ahead and sadly the quality begins to dip slightly. However there are a few bright spots here – so it’s not all bad and we will come to that in a quick minute. First of all though when we cut forward we are introduced to Shiloh Fernandez as grown up Gio with Lorainne Bracco as his mum, I was actually kinda vibing on the style of the flick as his makes his way to uncle Angelo’s house in a series of vignettes of sorts… it reminded me of some of the great gangster flicks like Donnie Brasco, only directed by a Woody Allen type. As an audience we get to meet a host of interesting characters played by some wonderful talent. The only drawback to this being that you have this host of characters played by people like Penn Badgley, Luiz Guzman, Jeremy Allen White and all I can think is “show me that guys story”.

Then we get to Uncle Angelo’s house….

Now I don’t want to sound like an asshole but honestly Val Kilmer is not in a good way; yes I know the man has recently battled throat cancer and I’m happy to see people still casting him but seeing the man like this was just a little sad. It did mean he was putting in a little more acting work, which is decent to see, but it kind of just made me a little down in the dumps.

My main criticism of The Birthday Cake however is that, for the bulk of this movie, lead star Shiloh Fernandez was being outshone by a group of actors who were turning up for a day or two to shoot their parts. But then the last 30 minutes happen and it’s all Shiloh as he ramps up the performance to a solid 11 and tells his fellow thespians to hold his coat.

That was my main negative but it was a glaring negative for the first half of the movie. I really liked the simple structure of the film and thought the story was compelling. The Birthday Cake looks gorgeous with only a couple of minor off-kilter shots. The film has a great soundtrack and a whole host of “Hey he was in that thing” faces that jump out at me as a film nerd because I’ve seen all these mobster flicks and shows.

I have no idea how he assembled the cast and crew for such a great looking and feeling flick but that doesn’t matter really, overall Jimmy Gianapolous has done a hell of a job for his first time out as writer AND director.

**** 4/5

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