A strong contender for laziest mob movie ever made, the Boston-set Italian mafia tale “By the Gun” proves that what was once thrillingly exotic and coolly dangerous about gangster films is now hopelessly monotonous.
Ben Barnes, alternating between DeNiro, Pacino and Caan wiseguy tics, stars as Nick, a brash, young North End mobster wannabe. Nick can’t wait to be a made man under aging boss Sal (Harvey Keitel on autopilot), even though it goes against everything Nick’s father (Paul Ben-Victor) wants for him.
Much is made in “By the Gun” of changing times for crime syndicates, with Nick and his loose cannon buddy George (Slaine) denigrating the old timers in favor of leaner, meaner ways.
But when things go bad for Nick, “By the Gun” can only show that every story’s been told before, and better. Emilio Mauro’s screenplay is all rancid machismo, tedious yelling and turgid plotting, while director James Mottern exhibits a pathological love for repetitive close-ups and terrible acting that instantly brings each endlessly talky scene to a dead stop within seconds.
Early on, Nick insults a braggy thug by comparing him to TV, a meaningless barb when nearly everything on television today is better than “By the Gun.”
“By the Gun”
MPAA rating: R for strong violence, sexual content, nudity, language, drug use.
Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle’s Town Center 5, Encino.