My daughter and I rented this film from the video store. When we inquired about its merit, we were given only an “ok,” and advised of something better. My daughter insisted this one had potential, so we brought it home. This sleeper snuck up on us. What an enjoyable film! It clearly shows government ineptness and underhandedness is business as usual at every level of the ‘just us’ system.
The film is based on a true story, with much of the dialogue taken directly from court transcripts. However, stuffy it is not. Vin Diesel portrays a small-time Mafioso, Jackie “Dee” DiNorscio, who does not try to pretend that he has never done anything illegal. After his $300,000 lawyer garnered him a 30-year drug conviction, he decides to represent himself against a dragnet indictment under RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.) This is where the real story begins.
All the other defendants have lawyers who follow the court’s rules. Diesel, as DiNorscio, has no courtroom pretense and tells the jury from the get-go that he is going to just speak to them from his heart. He does not disappoint.
At first his antics, lack of decorum and discipline get him into trouble, but he never strays from telling the often moving, heartfelt truth to the court in the form of questions. In this way he dissects most of the main witnesses for the prosecution until they have one mole’s credible testimony and too many surveillance tapes on which the case stands.
DiNorscio, a convicted criminal serving time from a government sting operation, drug user, unfaithful spouse (poor choices, yes, but criminal?) with a sixth grade education and a Brooklyn-Italian accent, changes the climate of the entire proceeding with his completely plausible sincerity. In one smokin’ scene he is visited by a woman he calls his wife, “was your wife,” she corrects him. He completely won me over when he responded with, “uuuh yeah, I forgot. Is dere any-body I haven’t fucked ovah?” She responds with “not to my knowledge.”
You begin to wonder, along with Jackie Dee, why, if these men are so “bad,” can’t the government try them for actual crimes instead of the artificial “crimes” of 1) being Italian, and 2) associating with one another. You also find yourself rooting for the defendants and hoping the jury won’t do anything stupid, like convict! But one never knows with a jury. Twenty men charged with seventy-five counts: where there’s smoke there must be fire.
At one point in the film, the prosecutor, who has never lost a case and has his career riding on this two-year trial, is exasperated with the jury’s rapt attention given to DiNorscio. He cries out, asking why they can’t understand that because of these mobsters controlling the New Jersey ports, everything they buy is more expensive?! A libertarian must respond that people buy those things willingly – it is government that makes everything more expensive, far more than mobsters, and the government offers nothing in return for the money, except more government. It also makes you wonder how much money was wasted on this trial and countless others like it.
My son had considered renting the film before, but when he remembered Vin Diesel’s previous roles, he couldn’t. I’m glad I had no such bias, because I would have missed a wonderful ride. I can’t think of anything about the film that was not believable. I completely lost the awareness that I was watching a movie; I was enjoying the story of my new friend, Jackie Dee.
Popular films have not accomplished as much as this easy-to-overlook gem. Its most powerful message is that an honest, open, willing heart can change everything far more effectively than any initiation of force can. George W. could learn a lot from Jackie Dee.
Retta Fontana is an atheist, anarchist, baker, homeschooler, potter, parenting teacher and a student of Forex. Children are her favorite people. She lives in Metro Detroit.