The Costa Nostra, as I discussed before, has struck a chord with the collective psyche of America. With cultural touchstones like The Sopranos, and Goodfellas showing the nation that there’s a compelling side to the mob. Most of the time it’s serious and morose, reflecting the gravity of the world of crime these characters inhabit. One film set out to show that there is an element of love and comedy, in the lower ranks of The Commission, A film following the exploits of Gigli.
Gigli (pronounced Geelee, but not by his friends) is a mobster working in then-current California. He is tasked by his immediate superior, Larry, with kidnapping a relative of a federal prosecutor, who is causing trouble for Gigli’s Boss. The brother, Brian, has learning difficulties and has a fascination with “The Baywatch”, much to Gigli’s annoyance. To further ensure the smooth operation of the scheme, Larry sends in Ricki a bombshell assassin, who to Gigli’s dismay is a homosexual. Now Gigli, Ricki & Brian must live together as they try not to let a little thing like love get in the way.
It’s hard defining why Gigli works; on paper, it sounds like it would take the talents of Lazarus to raise any comedy from the concept. But the film has this unusual madcap dynamism that is communicated from the offset with this clever monologue. It’s a sustained experience and well-paced throughout, as the ludicrous situations arise. Gigli has the kind of concept that would find itself as home as a cult T.V. comedy that got culled before its time. Its zany antics help define the trio of mismatched characters and feel more like a cohesive family unit or a dysfunctional one at least.
The cast of characters are brought to life by the big names. Ben Affleck is a good fit as the proto-anti-hero leading man, and Lopez is also cast well, remaining playful in her provocations of Gigli, and a good rom-com partner. Justin Bartha, just before National Treasure, plays Brian the prosecutor’s brother who enjoys, cartoons and having stories read to him, regardless if they’re book or Tabasco sauce bottles. The trio is odder than The Odd Couple, but like that show, it works. A shout-out also goes to Al Pachino who channels the patented Pachino vigour into the little time that he is on screen. He is joined by Christopher Walken playing a suspicious detective.
Gigli is scrappy and offbeat, it certainly isn’t for everybody, but it is for those who like their comedy on the darker side of convention. A romantic comedy for those who find the idea of romantic comedy stale. With a crop of big names before they got bigger. In short, while Gigli doesn’t aim for much, but it will kidnap your heart, long after viewing.
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