Case Number 21239: Small Claims Court


MTI // 2009 // 95 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // April 29th, 2011

The Charge

He Has His Own Mob Rules

The Case

The mob movie gets a bad rap, usually based on nothing more than pure creative comparison. Few if any can match what Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola did with Goodfellas and The Godfather, respectively, and when they're not trying to mimic the masters, filmmakers are falling into clichéd traps that taint even the most well-meaning crime drama. So it's nice to see the Windy-City-themed Chicago Overcoat try and be its own entity. Featuring a fascinating performance from genre vet Frank Vincent and a nice bit of Big Shoulders local color, first time filmmaker Brian Caunter captures a wonderful postmodern noir vibe while illustrating that a good cast and an eye for atmosphere can overcome even the most archetypal screenplay hiccups.

Lou Marazano (Vincent, Casino) is a mob legend, a lethal hitman who made his name during the Chicago mafia's reign of terror in the late twentieth century. Now, 20 years older and viewed as an antique, he's desperate to recapture his past glory. As luck would have it, a Union official (Jack Bronis, Dirty Work) is about to turn State's witness, and the currently jailed head honcho of the family, Stefano D'Agnostino (Armand Assante, Judge Dredd) wants him (and any other potential witnesses) eliminated. Lou sees this as an opportunity to pull off one last job, earn enough to get out of the game, and retire somewhere far, far away with his girlfriend Lorraine (Kathrine Narducci, The Sopranos). It won't be easy, however. An aging cop (Danny Goldring, The Dark Knight) recognizes Lou's M.O. and hopes to stop him for good, while D'Agnostino's right hand man (Mike Starr, Ed Wood) wants to stop him for his own, career-oriented reasons.

When it stays squarely with its characters, when it doesn't go careening into the hyperactive gunplay of the predictable postmodern mob movie, Chicago Overcoat ('20s slang for a coffin) is a very entertaining effort. It gives us interesting individuals who use dimension and determination to overcome many of the genre's pat expectations. Vincent, for his part, is particularly good, using his classical image to invoke both an ethnic expertise as well as a mandate for maturity and respect. He's not a good person, but he still comes across as someone whose complex code of ethics demands attention and appreciation. On the opposite end is Starr, whose bruiser bulk makes for a fine contrast. For him, replacing the boss (and therefore, getting rid of Lou) is more important than any oath of loyalty or honor among thieves.

This is a solid, if somber film, one that doesn't overwhelm you with conversational theatrics or overdone stunts. Sure, the ending becomes a bit unbelievable, especially when you consider what the circumstances ask the characters to do, but for the most part, we are intrigued by what will happen and find a rooting interest in even the most reprehensible acts. For his part, Caunter gives Chi-town a polish and position that's hard to ignore. While not the kind of metropolis that Frank Sinatra used to sing about, this director finds a way to bring both the old and new school Chicagos together. The result is an engaging mix, a movie that straddles the formulas it wants to forgo while making sure to minimize any outright repetition. As a rule, few can find passage beyond some of the best movies ever made, let alone their gangland subject matter. In this case, Chicago Overcoat tries -- and more or less triumphs.

As far as the DVD release is concerned, MTI does a good job with the overall tech specs. The 1.85:1 transfer is terrific, lacking any of the various flaws we come to expect from a low budget effort. Similarly, the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound set-up is excellent, using all the channels to cover the film's various action sequences. As for added content, we are treated to a Making-of, some deleted scenes, trailers, a discussion of the title and a look at how the Tommy Gun shoot-out was realized. In all, it's an excellent package supporting an equally inviting film. While many may look at Chicago Overcoat and think "been there, done that," the more adventurous film fan will ignore the warning and dive right in. What they'll see may seem all too familiar, but luckily, this is one derivative that finds its own delights.

The Verdict

Not Guilty. A nicely nuanced crime story.

Review content copyright © 2011 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 83

Perp Profile
Studio: MTI
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* English
* Spanish

Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurettes
* Trailer

* IMDb

* Official Site