Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight (1971)

Here’s some irony for you: This comedy about inept gangsters it itself ineptly made. If the irony doesn’t strike you as funny, that’s appropriate, because The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight isn’t funny, either. In fact, the most noteworthy thing about this brainless flick is how many talented people worked on the project. Venerable Big Apple columnist/novelist Jimmy Breslin co-wrote the script, which was based on his novel, which was in turn based on the exploits of a real-life crime figure. Ace New York cinematographer Owen Roizman shot the picture, though you wouldn’t know it from the choppy editing that makes Roizman’s frames feel amateurish. And the cast includes a number of reliable professionals—including Jerry Orbach, Lionel Stander, and Burt Young—to say nothing of Robert De Niro, appearing in one of his earliest films. The story revolves around a mid-level gangster (Orbach) enlisting his idiot cronies for attempts on the life of a villainous don (Stander). De Niro’s character, who seems to drift in from another movie, is an Italian bicyclist brought to America by Orbach’s character; the cyclist then gets his own uninteresting subplotThe Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight is such a mess that even De Niro comes off badly, mostly because director James Goldstone can’t maintain a consistent tone. The bulk of the picture is played as broadly as slapstick, but certain sequences have a dramatic vibe, notably those involving the love story between De Niro’s character and a mafia princess played by a miscast Leigh Tayl0r-Young. Alas, the comedic sequences are numbingly stupid, and the dramatic sequences are lifeless. From start to finish, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight is disjointed, episodic, and loud, with long stretches of screen time consumed by stupid contrivances: The mobsters steal a circus lion and use the animal to intimidate robbery victims; a little person (Hervé Villechaize) is the butt of assorted crass jokes; an old Italian mother (Jo Van Fleet) spews lines line, “You no take-a no bull-sheet!”; and so on. It’s all very tiring to watch.

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight: LAME


Ivan said...

I saw this in the theater as a kid (I was about seven and the folks dragged me to everything). I remembered thinking it was hilarious. Then a few years ago finally watched it again--and I was sitting there thinking, man, my seven-year-old self was stupid!
It's a horrible flick.

Unknown said...

A Mort Drucker poster. Nice!

Murph said...

FUN FACT: A young Al Pacino was originally cast in the Robert DeNiro role -- as DeNiro had already been cast in the small role of "Paulie Gatto" in the soon-to-begin production of "The Godfather" (after originally screen-testing for the role of "Santino 'Sonny' Corleone").

However, Francis Ford Coppola was so desperate to cast Pacino as "Michael Corleone" in "The Godfather," he enlisted the services of Mob lawyer Sidney Korshak to break Pacino's contract with MGM.

Pacino was now free to join "The Godfather" cast, but his vacancy on "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" needed to be filled -- so the role was offered to Bobby DeNiro!

And thank goodness for that, because if DeNiro had portrayed "Paulie Gatto" in "The Godfather," he never would have been cast as "Young Vito Corleone" in "The Godfather Part II."

As a result, movie history was definitely made -- but sadly for "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight," that was its only contribution to it.