Director: Brian De Palma | 100 minutes | comedy, crime | Actors: Danny DeVito, Joe Piscopo, Harvey Keitel, Ray Sharkey, Dan Hedaya, Lou Albano, Julie Bovasso, Patti LuPone, Antonia Rey, Mimi, Cecchini, Matthew Kay, Tony Munafo, Tony Rizzoli, Frank Vincent, Rick Petrucelli
Brian De Palma is an excellent director, as he has proven with films such as Scarface (1983), Body Double (1984) and The Untouchables (1987). He’s also proven to be comfortable making crime and mafia movies. Comedy, however, is a lot less for him. Wise Guys is a very mediocre film that never gets really funny and from a quality point of view it contrasts sharply with his other work.
Wiseguys is another name for mafiosi, but also for someone who is pretty clever, like Harry (Danny DeVito) and Moe (Joe Piscopo), two silly necks who have to do the dumbest jobs for a mob boss. However, they cannot even do that. They lose the boss’s money by betting on another horse and then their boss orders them to kill each other. However, they do not know this about each other. This should result in funny situations, but the humor is hard to find in this film.
A quintessential 80s film that faithfully follows the laws of crime comedies of this era. Two born brutes who do everything wrong, a friendship that is put to the test, a finale in a public place so that many people witness the dramatic final scene and a lot of synthesizer music of course. Action films from the 80s always end in an abandoned factory hall, (action) comedies from that time on a platform, in a stadium, on a crowded square or, like Wise Guys in a casino. Miles in advance you can already see where it will all turn out.
It has all been done more often and better. In this film, the chemistry between the main characters is also hard to find, which is mainly due to Piscopo’s poor acting. The script is predictable and lackluster, the jokes are bad and the action unconvincing.
Why then two stars? Oh well, Danny DeVito is acting well, he has just been cast as a passionate, neurotic gangster and it’s always nice to see a true actor like Harvey Keitel play, even if in a small part.
Unfortunately, De Palma’s hand is nowhere to be seen in this standard film, which is a shame, or is it? At one point Bruce Springsteen’s song Pink Cadillac can be heard. Two years earlier, De Palma directed Springsteen’s music video Dancing in the Dark.