With Hugh Grant and James Caan featuring in this Kelly Makin-directed piece, it is hard to think of Mickey Blue Eyes as anything but a strange capitulation between two very distant genres. With The Godfather in tow behind Caan’s presence and the future of the romantic comedy genre featuring thoroughly well with Grant’s leading role, the status Mickey Blue Eyes takes is one of sincere potential. A real mobster flick was always going to linger underneath, with the inevitable conclusions lending itself to a film that features uncomfortable reminders of the strong genre tropes that are used to heave Grant into the spotlight and out on-screen in a typecast role with sinister intentions.
A brief and shaky marriage, risky, as his fiancé Gina Vitale (Jeanne Tripplehorn) says, is on the mind of auction house manager Michael Felgate (Grant). But for all the breezy Italian music and the charming, awkward Brit at the heart of it, Mickey Blue Eyes can never quite find its footing. That may be partly because Grant is never offered the chance to display a personality beyond a doughy-eyed Englishman abroad. Some of the jokes depend entirely on Grant being a timely individual that runs funny and has floppy, curtained hair. Mishaps and a gathering of The Sopranos and Goodfellas alumni. No feature to have gangsters in it is a quality project unless Vincent Pastore and Frank Pellegrino show up.
The caricatures of the New York mobster are quite fun, and Markin has plenty of fun with the simplicity of it. But that simplicity does not lend itself to the later moments that hope to deride characters that had little else going for them. Burt Young’s supporting performance could be so much greater if it weren’t for the belittling of rather atypical and plain stereotypes. They serve their purpose extremely well, and Caan plays ball at the best of times. Those Martin Scorsese tropes and the allusions to all of that play nicely into the hands of Grant, Tripplehorn and Caan. The soundtrack, the off-hand remarks that toy with the mafioso lifestyle and the hardman secrets are all very nicely explored but never quite as experimental as they could be.
Charming and empty, a bit like some of the performances Grant would give around this time anyway. At least it fits the bill. Enjoyably light and knows its place, but, unfortunately, it does. What could have been if Mickey Blue Eyes were bigger and bolder than a comedy with a light dose of laughter and a heavy cast of big names. Grant plays that charming British man all too stringently, the fish out of water role is never quite the grand experiment it should be, but the humour that comes through this piece is often enough to push the fold a little. Frank Sinatra playing in the background of a mob engagement party function is one of the many little touches that add that cool, real-world layer of rumour and capitulation. It isn’t desperately needed for a breezy rom-com, but the effort has to be appreciated.