Chazz Palminteri in Boss of Bosses (2001)

Middle of the Road Mob Movie

Meh, I don't tend to use Meh but it is the best word I can find for "Boss of Bosses" a made for TV movie which focuses on the life of Paul Castellano. There is nothing seriously terrible about it as it churns out some usual mob movie cliches whilst portraying Castellano as a good guy but there is nothing special about it with Chazz Palminteri doing a good job of keeping our attention as Castellano. But it is a much of a muchness, a general look at the life of Paul Castellano, his rise to being Capo di tutti capi and how after becoming the Boss of Bosses he faced problems within the family.

"Boss of Bosses" doesn't really need a synopsis because whilst it starts on the 16th December 1985 when Castellano and his under-boss Tommy Bilotti are murdered outside Sparks Steak House it takes us from the 1930s to his murder. Along the way various things are covered, from his relationship with wife Nina and his lover Gloria through to the FBI trying to get enough information to bring him down. But more significantly it focuses on what happened when he because the boss of bosses and how certain factions did not like what he is doing whilst living in the lap of luxury, especially John Gotti who was vocal in his disapproval of how things are going.

Clancy Brown in Boss of Bosses (2001)

So basically we are talking life story here, a story of a Mafia boss and as is often the case we are presented with a vision of a Mafia boss who isn't completely evil and has a certain amount of respect for things. It is very typical and plays out in such a way to appeal to those who are fans of movies about gangsters and how they had this family rather than for those who want an accurate biopic. But as an introduction to who Paul Castellano was, his connections and how things played out for him it goes through the basic storyline in a reasonable way, not delivering anything new just retelling his story in a typical mob movie way. In fact on the subject of typical there is a scene where we are back in the 1930s and it uses the same framing and location of the much greater "Once Upon a Time in America" with the bridge in the background.

Now I am sure that for those who are more clued up on the history of Castellano and the other significant people shown such as John Gotti may say that actors don't look right and certainly don't come across right. And that may be the case but I have to applaud Chazz Palminteri as he delivers a solid characterisation and keeps your attention when ever he is on screen which thankfully is for most of the movie.

What this all boils down to is that "Boss of Bosses" is a middle of the road biopic of Paul Castellano which basically dramatizes the well known facts in a typical mob movie way. It isn't terrible but neither is it that good and just a reasonable movie for those who don't know more than the basic facts.