Playing by Mob 'Rules'
"Brooklyn Rules" will ring -- if not clang -- familiar to anyone who has seen "The Sopranos" or Martin Scorsese's gangster films, such as "Goodfellas." In this 1980s-set story of three boyhood friends who grow up in the shadow of the mob, longtime "Sopranos" writer Terence Winter builds a framework of cliches. Freddie Prinze Jr. plays the smart one who tries to make a go of it in the conventional world. Scott Caan -- all but invoking real-life father James Caan's Sonny in "The Godfather" -- plays the tough guy turned mafia apprentice. And Jerry Ferrara is the salt of the earth whose only ambition is to marry the girl next door. The storylines are too predictable to help the movie break free of its imitative soul. But director Michael Corrente gets such earnest performances out of the actors -- the cast also includes assured turns from Mena Suvari as Prinze's love interest and Alec Baldwin as the local crime boss -- the movie refuses to lie down in its hackneyed grave. Against all odds, it remains surprisingly watchable.
-- Desson Thomson
Brooklyn Rules R, 99 minutes Contains violence, sexual scenes and profanity. At AMC Loews Dupont.