Written and directed by Eric Carosella, an old mob hit man who still thinks he’s in his prime learns the hard way that he’s not, old mobsters never die, they just fall apart in South Philly. Starring: Stephen Sorrentino, Carmen Romano, Patrick Heraghty and Elizabeth Caponigro.
Gangster stories are hardly fresh meat when it comes to film so to make it work, you need to have something new to add to the conversation and thankfully, this film does. A Tale of Redemption and Regret with Sunny the Heat kicks off far after most would have rolled the credits, skipping over the glory and going for the refusal to retire. It feels classically American, its opening scenes are almost like a mix of silent, classic and modern cinema styles. The story has a strong charm, boiling down Sunny (Sorrentino) to his relatable qualities: struggles with technology, daily frustrations and aching joints. The tone is playful, using the heavy narration in the beginning works very well and reminisces of a lot of modern films tapping into a 1970s edge. Eric Carosella’s writing is funny and importantly, it’s not trying too hard to be slick, like a lot of gangster stories would. It’s grounded yet theatrical, has a touch of the silly but also manages to bring in some tension.
Part of that is due to Carosella’s direction, switching styles to match the story as it develops. Starting out with a more handheld, constantly moving style which has a solid personality to it, then changing to something slower and still as the story brings through a more tense tone. The editing helps to enhance that faster movement in the beginning and more conversational style in the later scenes. It also changes from black and white to colour to accent the past and present, which is an effective choice and adds into its charming personality. Even with those changes and clearly conscious choices, it still retains an everyday feel, keeping that reminder Sunny’s mob lifestyle is neither glamorous nor decadent.
Stephen Sorrentino taps into a familiar style of character with Sunny, a man used to power but now feeling his age and giving one last ditch attempt to relive the glory days. One of the best things about the performance is that Sorrentino doesn’t try too hard, he’s hitting classic notes without overly pushing the accent or affectations, keeping Sunny relatable. He captures that violent streak without making him feel cold, calculated or uncaring, the same goes for bringing through a strong tendency to anger without making him seem arrogant. Patrick Heraghty is a nice sparring partner, he feels cut from the same cloth but having him watching cartoons is a good extra addition to explore the change in lifestyle, leaving the family business.
A Tale of Redemption and Regret with Sunny the Heat is an original way to explore a mob story, taking a look at the years long after the days of action and rewards. It’s funny, charismatic, relatable and mixes a few different styles to create an interesting homage to multiple decades of cinema. Stephen Sorrentino gives our titular lead a good dose of charm, mixed with an old school personality.