Turner Network Television's Boss of Bosses
has a good script that is brought to life by several talented actors, Chazz Palminteri in particular.
And yet, this "TNT Original" seems oddly unoriginal. Do we need another drama about a gangster who lives by a supposed code of honor and is tortured by decisions he must make? We've seen the premise before, in Showtime's 1999 movie Bonanno: A Godfather's Story
and Home Box Office's The Sopranos.
Even though this movie is based on fact, many of its elements seem today to be cliché, copies of oft-used incidents from other dramas in the mob genre — most notably The Godfather.
For instance, when Paul Castellano (Palminteri) calls a meeting of all the family heads to discuss a pressing issue — or plans a sit-down with hothead John Gotti at a restaurant where security would be tight — there's a sense of déjà vu.
The drama is bookended by Castellano's December 1985 assassination outside Manhattan's Sparks Steak House, where he was to meet Gotti, one of the mob's aggressive young turks. Gotti (Sonny Marinelli) realizes he's "dead meat" for having disobeyed the Don's "you deal, you die" directive, and acts first.
Then the movie flashes back 50 years, to December 1933, when Paul and lifelong associates Piney Armone (Mark Margolis), Neil Dellacroce (Dayton Callie) and Carlo Gambino (Al Ruscio) first become involved in the Mafia.
We also see a young Paul fall in love with the woman who will become his wife, only to be tossed aside decades later for Gloria, his Colombian maid-turned-mistress (Angela Alvarado).
Since the screenplay is based on the book of the same name by FBI agents Joseph O'Brien and Andris Kurins, we also see the agents' side as they track the mobsters and ultimately sneak in to Castellano's home to bug a desk lamp (another Sopranos
Castellano, named the new Don by a dying Gambino, tries to move the Mafia into legitimate businesses and ban drug dealing, ideas that don't sit well with more old-school Mafia types. Castellano "could've been the CEO of a company," says the FBI's Bruce Mouw (Daniel Benzali).
In a similar vein, Dellacroce shouts at Castellano, "You're trying to make this thing of ours into AT&T — and we're not."
Executive producer Lois Bonfiglio (HBO's A Bright Shining Lie) and director Dwight Little (Murder at 1600) close by returning to the Don's assassination, this time zooming in on a gold bracelet on the snowy street, inscribed with Gloria's name. Cue violins.
TNT's Boss of Bosses
debuts June 3 at 8 p.m., followed by seven repeats that month.