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Married to the Mob (1988)

Jonathan Demme’s Married to the Mob is one of those movies that has greatness within its reach but, having failed to acquire it, falls away badly. A pencil-thin Michelle Pfeiffer, sporting a truly 80s hairdo, plays Angela de Marco, the dissatisfied wife of mobster ’Cucumber’ Frank de Marco (Alec Baldwin). From her house filled with tacky, ostentatious furniture, Angela yearns for a life of normality, so when Frank is executed by his boss Tony (Dean Stockwell) for messing with his mistress she grabs the opportunity to give away all the tack to charity and head for the city, out of the reach of the mob and their bitchy, gossipy wives. Unfortunately, Tony takes a shine to Angela and tracks her down to her run-down apartment…

The most disappointing aspect of Married to the Mob is the way it fades so badly in its second half. While it focuses on the mob side of the story it flies along, filled with brash colour, cartoonish but amusing characters and a throwaway violence that combine to provide a rollercoaster ride. The ride grinds to a halt, though, when Matthew Modine’s unconventional cop gets involved with Angela and forcibly recruits her into working undercover for the FBI.

Pfeiffer gives a refreshingly endearing performance as the decent but common gangster’s wife who longs for a normal life, but finds herself ill-equipped to cope once she achieves a semblance of it, especially with a young son in tow (although writers Barry Strugatz and Mark R. Burns choose not to explore that particular aspect of the story). Pfeiffer fills her performance with all these quick grins and nervous smiles that reveal the insecurity behind her initially brash, gum-chewing exterior. Although her vulnerability is winning, it’s Dean Stockwell who gives the movie’s most memorable performance as Tony ’The Tiger’ Russo, the mob boss whose snappy clothes are a throwback to the Hollywood gangsters of the 1930s. He’s a scoundrel, without a doubt, but you can’t help liking him for it…

(Reviewed 15th July 2012)