Review: Lansky (2021)

Lansky (2021)

Directed by: Eytan Rockaway | 119 minutes | biography, crime | Actors: Harvey Keitel, Sam Worthington, John Magaro, Minka Kelly, David James Elliott, Danny A. Abeckaser, David Cade, AnnaSophia Robb, Shane McRae, Jackie Cruz, Steve Alderfer, Stacey Hinnen, Dylan Flashner, Robert Walker Branchaud, Jay Giannone , Dodge Prince, Vincent Minutella, Claudio Bellante

“When you lose your money, you lose nothing. When you lose your health, you lose something. When you lose your character, you lose everything.” Painfully, this life maxim from the bookkeeper of the underworld, Meyer Lansky, refers to what the film itself lacks: personality. ‘Lansky’ is far from a criminally good film, rather a crime against Mafia classics. You wonder where it took the wrong turn. After all, the production has managed to get acting cannon Harvey Keitel for the lead role.

Keitel has played countless mobsters in iconic ways, even portraying two men—Mickey Cohn in “Bugsy” (Barry Levinson, 1991) and Benjamin Bugsy Siegel in “Virginia Hill” (Joel Schumacher, 1974)—who were friends with the real Lanksy. So, if there’s one actor who knows how to wash this piggy, it’s Keitel. Unfortunately, this breed actor also shares in the malaise. The clichéd script doesn’t help and on top of that Keitel’s fellow players don’t do much of it. Sam Worthington as journalist David Stone, who interviews Lansky for a book, plays as a wooden klaas and John Magaro, the young Lansky, gaudy bumbles through the cardboard decor. Yet Keitel still tickles the viewer’s attention and turns out to be the best special effect in ‘Lansky’.

“I have no knowledge of the subject,” Lansky replies when Stone asks about his alleged connections to the American underworld. This answer also applies to the director, because Eytan Rockaway is anything but rocking. The film is dangerously close to a pastiche of all American gangster films since time immemorial. The pieces Rockaway thinks are cool from ‘The Godfather’ trilogy (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972-1990), ‘Goodfellas’ (Martin Scorsese, 1992) and ‘Casino’ (Martin Scorsese, 1994), he shamelessly imitated and pile thrown. What remains is mainly the cocky behavior and the excessive violence from these canonical films. Copying from the greats is always possible, but don’t do it half-baked.

With an unusually low budget of five million dollars for such an ambitious film, ‘Lansky’ has not fallen B territory but at least a letter lower. Then the question still arises: how do you manage to make a dull film about the bookkeeper of the mafia? Lansky was, among other things, the founder of The National Crime Syndicate. This fact alone could make for an explosive screenplay. The fact that you then turn up with a sluggish mishmash, basically a Wikipedia listing, is actually an achievement in itself. Most unfortunate is that the ‘Lansky’ has not become unintentionally comical. Except for the kissing scene with Worthington, but then you must have defied two-thirds of the film.

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