Billed as a thriller, “Zarra’s Law” has a lot of difficulty living up to its namesake genre. Writers Joseph Scarpinito and Charles Kipps give little in the way of thrills and viewers will find actor Tony Sirico’s character of Tony Zarra an almost exact clone of his Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri portrayal from HBO’s “The Sopranos.” In fact, not only is Tony a retired bachelor, but he still lives with his mother (Renée Taylor,) who is a pain in the neck because she constantly complains, drinks and burns everything she cooks. Cut back on the grappa, ma!
A retired New York police detective, Tony walked on the right side of the line, while his brother Roberto ran with a mob crew. Living a life of crime, Roberto dies when he is the target in a car bombing. The story picks up three years after the bombing which finds Roberto’s son, Gaetano (Brendan Fehr,) honorably discharged from the army and who is now a lawyer with his own practice. Here’s the bad news, Roberto’s apparent killer, Bobby Stax, is let out of prison on appeal. Tony wants revenge, while Gaetano is pushed to the limit trying to cope with the release of his father’s killer and the apparent weight of his legal caseload. To complicate matters, Gaetano referred to as “G.” by his uncle Tony, takes on the domestic abuse case of Vanessa Andreoli (Kelli Barrett.) Her estranged husband, Frankie (Brian Tarantina,) is part of Bobby Stax crew, until he pisses Stax off by infringing on his territory by taking protection money from a local pool hall owner.
This sounds more complicated than it is, but it is easy to follow and that’s the problem. There are no challenges or surprises and little build up to the eventual anticlimactic showdown. There’s lots of growling from the characters with little action to follow, except when Gaetano punches out Bobby Stax in a restaurant and Frankie beats Vanessa in her home. Other than that, Gaetano does ride his motorcycle, but he is afraid to accelerate it over five m.p.h. Making one wonder if he truly knows how to ride the contraption.
As in most stereotypical mob movies, a romance does break out between a bartender and Gaetano at the restaurant Bobby Stax frequents. She does feed information to Gaetano about Stax’s activities, which does give Tony and Gaetano an important clue.
With the help of Mob Boss Paul Canto (Burt Young,) Tony and Gaetano get an important lead to solve the case, but the pay off comes too soon and fast. Unfortunately, the Academy Award nominated Young, who is the best thing in the film, is misused in his role, which he delivers with conviction. His character serves more as a go between and arbitrator than an actual mob boss running a crime family. Yes, there is light banter between Canto and Tony about times past, but it does little to add to the story except for viewers to learn that there is a forced history between the two friends from opposite sides of the track.
The film runs a short 79 minutes. One wonders if this was a failed television pilot or if the writers could have increased the conflict between Stax and Andreoli by having them do hits on one another’s crews. This would have added some excitement to the film and padded the time by an extra fifteen minutes. Also, Burt Young’s character could have been more effective as a tough as nails mob boss asserting himself into the conflict to stop the turf war from escalating.
As far as Tony’s character is concerned, the writers felt it wise to show Tony’s sadness and melancholia by having him attend his pet pigeons on the roof of his apartment. This gave no insight into the character and served to stall the film. It can be surmised that it was used more or less by production as a cost-effective meeting place for some of the characters.
Finally, a huge spoiler was let out of the bag midway through the film in a casual flashback scene, which went on to ruin one of the main characters’ background history. Done intentionally or not by the director or editor, it destabilized the plotline and took the only potential surprise out of the film.
Would I recommend this film? No, this really Nuked the Fridge and it is as highly forgettable as the 1990’s film, “Men of Respect.”
Here is a sneak preview scene from “Zarra’s Law.”
“Zarra’s Law” will be available on DVD on January 13th for a suggested retail price of $20.99. The film stars Tony Sirico, Brendan Fehr, Erin Cummings, Burt Young, Kathrine Narducci, Michael Badalucco, Nick Sandow, Renée Taylor, John Enos III, Wass Stevens, Brian Tarantina, Teddy Coluca, Paul Borghese, Julisita Salcedo, Derek Michalak, Greg Connolly, George Pogatsia, Cheutine Fong, Anthony Pierini, Phil Oddo, Razor Rizzotti, Mark Delabarre, Robert Keiley, Mike VcVearry, Kevin Scanlon, Sylvester Sichenze, Franco Quartuccio, Joseph Scarpinito, Ira Berkowitz, Ronald Catania, Johnny Salami, Damon C. Fields, Tony Vassopoulos and Salvatore J. Reale. Joseph Scarpinito and Charles Kipps wrote the screenplay, while Juha Wuolijoki wrote the shooting script. Juha Wuolijoki directs.