Tony Mastroianni Review Collection
The Gang Can't Shoot -- Neither Does the Film
Cleveland Press December 27, 1971
"The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" opens and closes funny but in between has nowhere to go. The movie, based on Jimmy Breslin's book about the Mafia in South Brooklyn, is a story that proves to be too frail and thin for stretching into a movie.
The story deals with the attempts by young upstart Kid Sally (Jerry Orbach) to lead a rebellion against boss-man Baccala (Lionel Stander). Kid Sally is pretty inept and so are his followers.
The tongue-in-cheek treatment turns into foot-in-mouth trouble as the script relies on characters swearing at each other to get laughs. The vulgarities fall flat when put into the mouths of elderly Italian women, wives and mothers of Mafia leaders. Women's lib hasn't extended that far.
When the moviemakers get a good gag going they run it into the ground. No one involved with the film ever heard that brevity is the soul of wit.
The movie works well when it takes some satiric thrusts at law enforcement officials who wait for the television cameras before swinging into action.
Lionel Stander as Baccala (he sends his wife out to start the car every morning in case it's been rigged with a bomb) comes off best. He's an old hand at snarling and being funny at the same time.
Jerry Orbach plays Kid Sally as though there was something to the part. Nice try, but there isn't.
Jo Van Fleet as Big Momma is a gross caricature.
Most of "Gang" is so juvenile in its attempt at humor that the makers ought to try scrubbing it up and turning it into a kid's film. That's its level.