On the eve of his wedding, a gangster about to take control of his New York crime family turns to a shrink for therapy.
Despite playing the King of Comedy, Robert De Niro and the mirth-making craft were infrequent bedfellows until this point. But this changed the perception of De Niro forever while playing by playing to his Mafioso strengths.
Ben Sobol is a new York psychiatrist living in the shadow of his shrink father, but looking forward to settling down into suburband anomymity with fiancée Laura. Paul Vitti is about to take on some responsibilities of the family kind too, although this kind spreads across much of the Upper East Side, has a penchant for silk suits, firearms and marinara sauce. And it’s giving him major gyp. A chance meeting brings the two men together, with Vitti demanding that Sobol root out the cause of his panic attacks before he makes his crucial powerplay in front of the Mafia top brass. With his customary script-tweaking, Ramis ensures a succession of roomy but organised set pieces for his leads, who both take full advantage.
Without descending into total lampoon, De Niro plays carefully on his gangster tradition, and in backing off from outright parody, th eiflm hits just the right tone. As Vitti falls apart, De Niro supplies just enough menace to keep the performance on the mark, without going over it. Meanwhile, Crystal’s frenetic, shuttering shtick is employed to good effect as Sobol walks a verbal minefield in which traditional therapy - getting in touch with the inner child or the merest suggestion of Oedipal issues - is likely to get him shot. And for the most part, it’s astutely judged: no gags, no direct-to-camera mugging, and not much falling over.
The Naked Goodfellas this aint (thankfully). Just a stream of artfully contrived scenes packing wit, bite and bona fide classy acting, blended into a picture of rewarding novelty