Friday, March 02, 2012

Osso Bucco: Grade B


Osso Bucco

Illeana Douglas, Mike Star, Christian Stolte, Antoine McKay, Aaron Roman Weiner; Directors Fred Blurton, Gary Taylor.

This delightful romance-comedy-mobster film has more of a theatrical than a cinematic feel because it is setbound and directed like a stage play. So, no car chases or explosions, although there is some (silly) gunplay and some good Chicago-accented mobster talk. The real draw is the fine acting, completely original characters and script, and precision directing. This is film as art.

Megan (Douglas) and Nick (Stolte) are waiters at an Italian roadside diner somewhere near Chicago. A huge snowstorm is moving in, so there are no customers until “Jelly,” a large, Chicago mobster (Star), and his buddy take refuge inside. A couple of police detectives who have been tailing them, also hoping get out of the storm, enter shortly after. Sealed inside the diner, the stage is set for a battle of wits between the detectives, who have a warrant for Jelly, and his vow to quit the mobster business forever.

The diners and the staff try to maintain polite decorum because they realize they are all trapped in the place together, but trouble erupts when one of the cops orders the only serving of osso bucco, a Milanese veal specialty. That just happens to be Jelly’s favorite, and as he is a regular at the diner, and good friends with the waitress (Douglas), he insists he should get it. Tensions escalate.

Despite the constant undertone threat of violence, the tone is light, as Jelly’s character tries to act the gentleman, and to express his affection for Megan (Douglas) despite the imminent threat from the policemen. The directing has just the right touch. Douglas and Star give outstanding performances, but the original and creative script is the real star. I selected this movie because I am a fan of Douglas, and though it is an inconsequential amusement, I was pleasantly surprised the film was so strong overall.

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