Wise Guys

If you love the rancorous humor of gangster films — the scenes in which the ethnic goons strut, gesticulate, and insult each other — you’ll enjoy this screwball mob comedy. Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo are two New Jersey mob lackeys (and best friends) who screw up while placing a large bet for their boss, the smooth, remorseless Dan Hedaya. The boss gives each man one last chance to redeem himself: DeVito is ordered to rub out Piscopo, and vice versa. Not knowing they’ve been set up, but knowing they’re dead one way or the other, the two hit the road and go to Atlantic City, where DeVito hopes his uncle — a former heavy-hitter for the mob — will bail him and Piscopo out.

Everyone in the large cast sparkles, but the standout is Captain Lou Albano as the colossal Frank the Fixer, who barks profanities for the whole movie (“This is the strangest pillowcase I’ve ever seen,” says a flunky; “IT’S MY UNDERWEAR, ASSHOLE!” bellows Frank). Captain Lou (rest his irritable soul) wasn’t an actor, but we start laughing every time he waddles onscreen, because he’s so relentlessly, monotonously irascible he’s hilarious. On its own terms, this is a terrific piece of throwaway entertainment, a fun return to comedic roots for Brian De Palma.

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