There is no surprise to anybody that knows me that I am a big fan of gangster films. That being said, the first two Godfather films are two of my favorite films of all time. So when I saw that there was a new movie called Mafia Mamma starring Toni Colette I had to see it as soon as possible. And I had high expectations of it since this is one of my favorite genres of film. And it’s right in the vein of those famous gangster films I’ve loved in the past and still today.
The movie focuses on a boring housewife (Toni Collette), Kristin Balbanno, and a businesswoman as part of a pharmaceutical company. Her husband is a dog and charts on her and she has a good son who’s going to college. She gets a call that her grandfather has passed away in Italy. She goes to Italy to attend her grandfather’s funeral but gets wrapped up in a world of gangsters and mafia feuds. Bianca (Monica Belluci) is an Italian Gangster who is part of her family. She fills her in on the rules of the world she has entered into. It’s nothing like her life back in California. It’s a whole new world of danger, blood, and deception.
The film is full of action sequences and assassination attempts. Once this woman goes to Italy she is free game for her family’s rivals, the Romano family who killed her father. Now they are out to get her but they don’t realize she’s not like her father or grandfather. All the mafia & gangster film tropes abound in this movie. There are so many scenes that remind me of the Godfather films. It’s crazy. The director Catherine Hardwicke, written by Amanda Sthers and based on an original story by J Michael Feldman and Debbie Jhoon, brought me back into a world I have loved for years now.
Part of the funny part of this film is that the main character references Eat Pray Love, an inspirational book/film about a woman who goes to various places around the world to find herself, including Italy, to eat great Italian food. What she gets is not exactly what she expected. Her grandfather in a video before he dies makes her the head of the family. All she wanted was to live a new life based on that book. Instead, she gets a life of gangsters.
There are some subplots that all tie back into the overall story including a romantic angle where Colette’s character falls for a man who supposedly makes his own Italian food. Another one is about her surviving the wine vineyard that was withering away. She thought it would be good for the family business to get the wine business back up and running again. And it helps bring money into the family as well. All her various business dealings and so forth have gotten her noticed by her rivals and so they arrange for a boss meetup at an Italian restaurant. Wherr shr gets a good first impression of them
Colette plays this character as an innocent and does not know about the world she has been brought into but by the end of the movie, she has fully embraced this lifestyle and its pluses. Including men protecting her instead of trying to treat her badly and take advantage of her. Her innocent and love struck routine only goes so far though. It’s fun most of the time. This is a different kind of the for her but she fully embraces it by the end of this film.
Mafia Mamma is a movie for fans of gangster films. Those who love the Godfather Films and Goodfellas will surely be at home watching all these gangster tropes come across the screen. One, in particular, struck me near the end of the film. When you see it you’ll know what I’m talking about. Colette embraces the comedic innocent side of her character while also committing to all the gangster stuff as well. Hardwicke fully invested herself in the story and script and made a movie fans of this genre can be proud of. Including myself.
3 ½ stars
Dan Skip Allen