‘Booze, Broads and Blackjack’ scratches the mob movie itch

The independently produced, fledgling-star-studded film learns from genre icons while offering screen time to rising stars

By Freddy Moyano

Up and coming director Ricky Bird delved into the mob movie genre with the 2020 film “Booze, Broads and Blackjack.” Photo courtesy of Hectic Films Productions

Vegas, New York and most recently Newark. Add in an unquenchable thirst for fame and money, power and control, questioned loyalty and treason to these iconic locations, mix in a memorable handful of Italian-American—or Italian, period—neighborhood vigilante characters who engage in endless battles and you have a recipe for genre success. This recipe is largely based on the success of Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather,” which was adapted to the big screen in the early 1970s.

In this same flavor is the highly anticipated “The Sopranos’” prequel “The Many Saints of Newark” which premiered in most theaters and HBO streaming services on Oct. 1.

Movie buffs who can’t get enough of tales of sawed-off shotguns—or luparas—coupled with vendettas over betrayals and olive oil-greased dishonor are sure to find something to sink their teeth into in the independently produced crime film “Booze, Broads and Blackjack.”

This 2020 release was directed by up-and-comer Rickey Bird (“Naked Zombie Girl”), with A-listers like “The Sopranos’” own Vincent Pastore, coupled with a rather faint guest-star like appearance by Vincent M. Ward (“The Walking Dead’’) and old-timers like James Duval (“Donnie Darko”, “Gone in 60 Seconds”), whose scene-stealing, memorable work at an office complex scene in Vegas is among this film’s gems.

Based on the Carl Nicita novel of the same, “Booze, Broads and Blackjack” is initially set in the upper East Coast with Pastore’s character, Uncle Vinny Bombayo, running a family business as usual—no deep spoilers here—until an unexpected chain of events leads Bombayo’s nephew, DJ Jack King (“Grey’s Anatomy”’s Joe Raffa) and his troubled girlfriend to Las Vegas. Soon enough, this 90-minute film shows there are no saints in Vegas as King disobeys his uncle’s orders in the middle of the casino-loaded city and ends up crossing paths with Alicia, opening a can of troubling zigzags spinning around a mysterious suitcase.

Alicia’s character was rather refreshing to see. The tumultuous character is played by rising actress Sarah French, who is also known for her work in the new age horror film “Pretty Boy.” French adds a spicy, yet genuine “Welcome-to-Vegas” touch that keeps the plot interesting. She keeps viewers guessing at her true intentions throughout the second half of the tape.

On the other hand, Raffa starts out with a likable performance but seems to lose fuel with every scene. Thankfully, his sassy DJ character is well supported by French and the sparsely sprinkled genius-worthy appearances of Pastore and Duval. Every line delivered by Pastore’s Uncle Vinny has a well-matured “Sopranos”’ flavor throughout. If you enjoyed the late James Gandolfini’s hit series you will appreciate Pastore’s cold and comic range in his handful of appearances. Of special note is the dialogue in one of the initial scenes when Uncle Vinny meets Savannah for employment—infiltration is a better term–at his club.

Rumor has it that Pastore left “The Sopranos” on rocky terms and his exit was earlier than anticipated. A big portion of the series’ core audience (myself included) did not take his quick exit too lightly. Pastore has an irreplaceable acting ability and is an enjoyable piece of candy to savor in almost every scene he works. Aging like the best of wines, his work in “Booze, Broads and Blackjack” reminds me of character-filled artists such as Michelle Rodriguez who somehow were born to shine as supporting at heart.

Born and raised in Madrid, Spain, Freddy Moyano has spent almost two decades in Northeast Wisconsin working as an actor, voiceover artist, film editor and entrepreneur. Moyano has produced over 20 motion pictures and earned international recognition such as Best Nature/Wildlife Film Jean Luc Godard Award in 2020. He is the founder and a director of Green Bay-based, international film festival, MLC Awards. Find more information about Moyano and the MLC awards at www.mlcawards.com and www.imdb.me/freddymoyano.

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