Although "10th and Wolf" is not a bad movie I was a bit disappointed. Since it's based on the same story as "Donnie Brasco" I was expecting something as intense and breathtaking as Mike Newell's film. And I have to say "Donnie Brasco" was more thorough and more thought-provoking than "10th and Wolf".
It starts as Tommy (James Marsden) returns to Philadelphia from the army and he's having a deal with FBI to be an inside man in his cousin Joey's (Giovanni Ribisi) gang which has some business with mafia. Federals will be able to catch some bigger fish and Tommy will get a chance to save his younger brother Vince (Brad Renfro) and Joey from going to jail. So Tommy who never wanted to join the local gang starts having business with his friends and wears a wire.
That's the basic story-line, but what I liked here was not this "undercover agent" plot but relationships between the main characters. Tommy who hasn't been home for some years begins to build his relations with his cousin, his brother, old friends and aunt - and all that looks rather interesting and vivid mostly due to the good actors taking part in the feature. The cast in "10th and Wolf" is indeed very nice. Marsden is surprisingly good, I never expected such a credible performance from him. Ribisi is awesome as always, he's full of energy, he's vigorous and a little bit mad. Renfro is also very good, he's almost always authentic albeit overacting sometimes. Piper Perabo is quite believable as a single mother and Tommy's love interest although we never get to see any love scenes in the movie. I can also mention Lesley Ann Warren whom I adore, actually I can't remember a role she was bad at. And Brian Dennehy with Leo Rossi were OK as two federal agents. What I disliked or rather was distracted with were the cameos of Val Kilmer, Dennis Hopper and Tommy Lee. Hopper was the only one to get a sort of a real part in "10th and Wolf", but generally it looked like big names were used just to attract attention to the movie although they appeared on screen for 10 minutes altogether.
Robert Moresco whose latest achievement was a screenplay for "Crash" did a nice writing and directing job here, but throughout the whole film I've felt something's missing. First it seemed to me "10th and Wolf" happened to be smaller than I thought it would be. It lacked some calibre. Or maybe some things seemed strange to me. Or maybe I had some doubts. Here they are:
1. I doubt the gangs are usually consist of 5-6 persons. I thought of some bigger number. But in "10th and Wolf" it looks like the local gang really IS 5 people.
2. I doubt a leader of the gang can be that young. Well, Giovanni Ribisi looks rather young especially after Dennis Hopper who was the head before.
3. I doubt top mob members participate in everything their crew does, from negotiating to killing someone, they must have some apprentices.
4. I doubt just two feds are handling the case of undercover agent and some mafia family. Obviously there's some other people, but here it sometimes seems that FBI is two persons only.
5. I doubt a person who messed with a mob boss and then blackmailed two back-alley feds can walk away from this easily instead of being whacked by mobsters or corrupted feds.
6. I doubt a mob boss would torture and kill someone in HIS OWN house where he lives, where his wife is waiting for him in an upstairs' bedroom.
7. I doubt two persons, even armed, can easily intrude the mafia's boss house (who knows they can attempt to do it) killing all the resistance.
I had some other doubts but I guess you got the idea. I read people from Philadelphia saying the film really captured the city's spirit. I don't live there so it's not up to me to judge, but if to sum it all up I've seen better: from "A Bronx Tale" to "The Sopranos". But with all my doubts there clearly are some positive things about "10th and Wolf". Nice story, directing and acting - I think that's quite enough, and as for several flaws - I sincerely think there are no movies without them. Maybe here they just stick out too evidently.