And – to be honest – who can blame them? When you’re finally educated and respected in the art of your craft, isn’t that when you’d love to be challenged by a variety of work instead of finding yourself pigeonholed into the same character over and over and over again? As a fan of Science Fiction, I’ve met many actors who’ve kinda/sorta lamented “I never should’ve taken that Star Trek role because it’s followed me around my entire life,” and – sure – on one level, I feel sorry for them.
However, I think the same thing may’ve happened to actor Tony Sirico.
For those of you who know that name, Sirico played Paulie ‘Walnuts’ Gualtieri – a rather significant and central role to HBO’s long-running crime drama The Sopranos. In Zarra’s Law (2014), he plays a retired police detective … but for the life of me I couldn’t stop waiting for him to break loose the way a ‘made man’ should, and it may’ve hampered my ability to remain completely impartial.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging:
“Retired cop Tony (Tony Sirico) finds he is unable to forget the murder of his younger brother, who was in the mob. He’s outraged when he finds out the man he holds responsible is getting out of prison after only two years. He needs to find answers fast and if necessary, seek revenge. Joined by his attorney nephew, Gaetano (Brendan Fehr), he infiltrates the seamy world of organized crime and gets lost in a labyrinth of greed, dead ends, and lies.”
That isn’t quite how I saw all of Zarra’s Law playing out, but it’s a very close approximation.
The veteran Sirico makes the best of the role given what appears to be his limited range (that’s not an insult to the actor; it’s only a statement that perhaps playing an officer of the law may not be his best suit). The script by Joseph Scarpinito and Charles Kipps traffics far too heavily in clichés – i.e. cops have hearts of gold; mobsters are in the biz for life; former soldiers make for great hometown heroes – and this ends up feeling more than a bit like a TV-movie-of-the-week upgraded by way of the many Brooklynese F-bombs.
Still, the chief problem I had with so much of Law is none of it felt even remotely organic. Clearly, these characters are set in motion due entirely to the conventions of scripted drama (Tony cares so much for his aging mother than he’s never taken a wife; all Gaetano wants to do is see justice served for his every client; never trust a mobster who welches on a deal; etc.), so it’s hard to see any other way for these events to unfurl except for the most predictable way. Even Gaetano is given a motorcycle as a means of defining his character (he’ll park that thing on the sidewalk simply because he doesn’t ‘follow’ the rules others do), and it felt more like this film’s answer to The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) by dishing out ‘The Motorcycle Lawyer.’ (Maybe that was its shooting title?)
To make things worse, there’s even an added subplot involving the FBI. Rather than use that element to give this tale greater gravitas, instead that ends up being little more than a mechanism to introduce greater conflict … though come the conclusion I couldn’t tell you beans about what the FBI were hoping to prove and whether or not they really did prove anything. Suffice it to say, it does end … but did anyone really care? I think not.
Zarra’s Law (2014) is produced by Scarpe Diem Productions and Snapper Films. DVD distribution is being handled by the reliable Arc Entertainment. As for the technical specifications? It’s all photographed and miked fairly well, so let’s just all be thankful for small favors. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features then you’re in for a disappointment since all they served up was a theatrical trailer.
Alas … only mildly recommended.
Honestly, I’ve been bored worse by worse pictures, but there was a modest charm to Zarra’s Law that kept me focused until the end. Largely what I looked for was that moment when former Sopranos’ tough guy Tony Sirico broke loose and busted caps into everyone, everywhere, and everything in sight. Sadly, that wasn’t quite what director Juha Wuolijoki had in mind here, so I did come away disappointed. Maybe those with minds more open than mine won’t.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Arc Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of Zarra’s Law by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.