Ambitious, sometimes clever but largely sputtering, "The Mafia Kills Only in Summer" works better as a childhood memory piece than as an adult tale of love and larceny.
Director-narrator-star Pierfrancesco Diliberto, best known in his native Italy as a popular TV host nicknamed Pif, juggles too many hats here. (He also co-wrote with Michele Astori and Marco Martani.) The result: a bit of a narrative and tonal muddle with uneven pacing and focus issues.
This farcical film looks back at the havoc wreaked by the Sicilian Mafia from the 1970s to the '90s as seen through the eyes of the Palermo-born Arturo. He's played as an impressionable boy by Alex Bisconti and as a hapless young adult by Diliberto, who, now 42, strains credibility as a virginal, recent college grad.
The prepubescent Arturo has journalistic ambitions, fostered by an odd fascination with then-Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, a wary curiosity of local mob activities and a friendship with a sportswriter neighbor (Claudio Gioè). However, it's Arturo's crush on pretty but fickle classmate Flora (Ginevra Antona) that propels much of the action.
The film jumps ahead to find Arturo as a wannabe TV news reporter stuck under the thumb of the local network's on-air personality (Maurizio Marchetti). The adult Flora (Cristiana Capotondi) reenters Arturo's life here as well, but they seem so wrong for each other, the movie's finale feels false.
In ways that evoke "Zelig" and "Forrest Gump," Diliberto intriguingly slips Arturo into archival news footage of actual political and Mafia-centric upheaval. On the downside, this doesn't much help clarify the dizzying number of real-life characters and events that whiz past in this fanciful effort.
"The Mafia Kills Only in Summer"
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes. In Italian with subtitles.
Playing: Laemmle's Royal, West Los Angeles; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.