De Felitta, whose “Two Family House” and “City Island” featured intimate stories about personal dissatisfaction, takes that theme into bigger-bang terrain in this dramatization, scripted by Jonathan Fernandez, of the crimes of a real-life Queens pair dubbed a 1990s Bonnie and Clyde.
In a New York City visually introduced as morally ailing and economically divided, Tommy (Michael Pitt), who’s broody, and Rosie (Nina Arianda), aptly named, are crazy-in-love have-nots and charismatic dunces.
A botched florist robbery lands Tommy in jail and prompts Rosie to chose a straighter path, in the form of a job at a debt-collection agency, where she’s the star employee.
After his release, Tommy starts working at the agency, too, but he’s soon skipping out to attend mobster John Gotti’s trial. Inspired, he gets a warped brainstorm: He’ll rob some Mafia social clubs.
After first freaking out at the sight of the Uzi that Tommy has hidden behind the eggplant in the fridge, Rosie joins Tommy in his get-rich venture. With a trigger-klutzy Tommy sticking up tough guys and Rosie driving the getaway jalopy, crime comedy occurs.
Things darken when a heist yields a list of names that could bring down the syndicate. Crime boss Big Al (Andy Garcia) doesn’t respond nicely.
De Felitta isn’t an edgy or penetrating filmmaker, and his light touch on a grim story doesn’t quite work. His feel-good approach, sometimes bordering on sentimental, limits character development.
Instead of exploring personal pathologies or social conditions that create sociopaths, he employs flashbacks to reveal that Tommy’s father was a victim of mob brutality — a manipulative sympathy-garnering device.
But as with Steven Soderbergh’s “The Informant” and Richard Linklater’s “Bernie,” the film, while it could be deeper, does score as darkly enjoyable entertainment about distorted souls committing terrible crimes in their need to feel significant.
De Felitta’s human focus results in accessible lead characters shortchanged by the gods of fortune. Fernandez’s screenplay, maudlin aspects aside, is appealingly snappy.
Pitt and Arianda, a Tony-winning stage actress and dazzlingly good, share a vibrant chemistry. Cathy Moriarty (as Tommy’s unforgiving mother), Ray Romano (as a tabloid reporter), Michael Rispoli (as Big Al’s right-hand man), and Griffin Dunne (supplying indie quirk as Rosie and Tommy’s upbeat boss) highlight the supporting cast.
Rob the Mob ★★★
Starring Michael Pitt, Nina Arianda, Andy Garcia, Ray Romano
Written by Jonathan Fernandez
Directed by Raymond De Felitta
Running time 1 hour, 44 minutes