As 2015 came to a close, a gangster film with Martin Scorsese’s name attached was released called The Wannabe. The film written and directed by Nick Sandow is an engaging one based on true events. For the first two minutes of the film, it appears that the film is more of a documentary on the trial of one of the mafia’s most colorful bosses, “The Teflon Don” John Gotti. The year was 1992 and the much publicized trial was nearing an end for the Gambino crime boss. Celebrities such as John Enos, and Mickey Rourke appeared at the court to support Gotti. In Sandow’s story however, the biggest Gotti supporter was a local neighborhood guy and small time criminal “Thomas Greco,” portrayed by Vincent Piazza.
Greco is a low level criminal that wants nothing more than to be noticed and taken seriously by the wise guys he idolizes. Greco decorates his walls with newspaper clippings about Gotti (Joseph Siravo), and his trial. He is obsessed with the mafia and mob films. After meeting “Rose” portrayed by Patricia Arquette at a neighborhood party, Greco and Rose embark on a drug fueled love affair while descending into a life of crime, fantasy, and obsession.
The beginning of the downfall for Rose and Greco is a failed attempt to murder the founder of the Guardian Angels and anti Gotti crusader Curtis Sliwa (Daniel Sauli). In an attempt to get the mobsters to accept him into their life, Greco concocts a plan to fix the trial of Gotti by paying off a juror to declare Gotti innocent. When Greco’s plan doesn’t exactly go the way he imagined, and the mobsters turn on the couple, Thomas and Rose decide to go on a crime spree against the people they worshipped the most. As the couple descend into a deeper hole, the two start robbing local mafia social clubs with Greco barging in with a gun and robbing cash and jewelry from the stunned wise guys.
Nick Sandow does a good job of making his film in a stylish way blending fact and fiction. One of the film’s highlights is a scene that recreates the infamous hit on Gambino boss Paul Castellano and his bodyguard Thomas Billotti which took place outside of Sparks Steakhouse restaurant in New York City.
Anyone that grew up in the early 1990s in the Bronx, Brooklyn or Queens neighborhoods where mob members congregated and lived can definitely relate to the film. It is a film that tells the story of the time period in a very authentic way. Many of the actors in the film including the extras look like the real deal.
Martin Scorsese who is the executive producer of the film with Dean Devlin had this to say about the film, “When I read the script for The Wannabe, I wanted to see it made into a movie, I admired the work that Nick Sandow and Vincent Piazza and Patricia Arquette did on Boardwalk Empire, and I knew that Nick wanted to make something fresh with this special story. The Wannabe covers a fascinating phenomena, it’s a surprising and sometimes touching study. I’m very proud to have worked with Vincent and his team on this picture.”
The Wannabe features a talented cast of actors with several having had roles in the gangster genre. Vincent Piazza is best known for his role on Boardwalk Empire as “Lucky” Luciano. Piazza also starred in Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys and had a role on The Sopranos. Michael Imperioli who portrays “Alphonse,” the florist and brother of “Thomas,” is best known for his portrayal of “Christopher” in The Sopranos which he won a Best Supporting Actor Emmy Award as well as the role of “Spider” in Goodfellas. Nick Sandow who appears in The Wannabe as “Anthony” has an extensive list of credits in film, television and theater including Boardwalk Empire. He most recently can be seen in Orange is the New Black as “Joe Caputo.” Other cast members include Vincenzo Amato, Jay Bulger, John Buscemi, Adrianna Demeo, Doug E. Doug, Domenick Lombardozzi, Arthur Nascarella, Joseph Siravo, Mike Starr, and John Ventimiglia.
The inspiration for The Wannabe is the true story of Thomas and Rosemarie Uva. In 1992 the couple were executed on the morning of Christmas Eve with both getting shot in the head as they sat in their red Mercury Topaz car on 103rd Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard in Ozone, Park, Queens. It was the unbelievable story of the Uvas that inspired Sandow to make The Wannabe. Sandow says, “About eight years ago I was given a newspaper article about this couple who were murdered on Christmas Eve, 1992, for holding up the mob’s social clubs around New York City! There were not many facts about them available, but what was there was enough for my imagination to run wild. This was a hysterically funny, unbelievably ballsy couple basking in and creating their own Mafia fables.”
The Wannabe is one film you do not want to miss if you appreciate good storytelling with an authentic New York City backdrop and are a fan of the gangster film genre.