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'10th & Wolf' Overly Ambitious

"10th & Wolf," the new film from Oscar-winning producer Bobby Moresco of "Crash" fame, is an ambitious prequel to "Donnie Brasco" that unfortunately falls far short of its predecessor.

Video: Watch Mike's Review

In fact, real life FBI mole Joe Pistone, portrayed so famously by Johnny Depp, is a producer of this film, which stars Giovanni Ribisi as a small-time hoodlum and James Marsden ("X-Men") as the ex-Marine recruited by the feds to infiltrate his cousin's Philadelphia mob connections.

And while the film boasts an incredible cast including Brian Dennehy, Val Kilmer, Leslie Ann Warren and Dennis Hopper (all in small roles), Moresco tries to do too much with too little.

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Such is the world of indie film.

Sometimes you get brilliance, like "Crash" and "Million Dollar Baby" — two films Moresco was involved with — and other times you come up craps, like "10th & Wolf."

The story follows Tommy (Marsden) after he's unceremoniously dumped from the Marines for beating up an MP. Part of his release includes cooperating with a cocky federal investigator (Dennehy) that puts him in the middle of his cousin Joey's (Ribisi) illegal activities.

Ribisi, an otherwise excellent actor ("Saving Private Ryan"), spends most of the film cursing and frowning as if he were constipated, delivering such gems as "You're dead, you're f---ing dead, you hear me," into cell phones which are too small to be in existence in the early '90s (but now I'm just being nitpicky).

Dash Mihok ("Lost") plays a dimwitted heavy with a gimp who beats the daylights out of the babealicious Piper Perabo's ("Coyote Ugly") character, a recently widowed bartender, and Brad Renfro ("The Client") plays Tommy's even more dimwitted little brother and Joey's "Sancho Panza."

And no matter how hard the actors and the filmmakers try to make you care about these people, it's simply not possible, and not just because of the character flaws of these murderers, adulterers and corrupters.

Most of the film is so dark that it's hard to make out the actor's faces.

Keeping it reel?

I really wanted to like this film. I interviewed Moresco at the Oscars and he was extremely generous with his time on the red carpet. I met Pistone at a book reading and plugged his latest book in my Grrr! column last summer.

But no matter how many times I watched this film, I just couldn't convince myself that "10th & Wolf" is a good enough movie for you to spend your hard-earned money on.

Variety review

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