… Look-in’ I-talian. Matty casts his eye over a rare misfire from director Guy Magar.
It’s no secret that, before becoming one of the biggest stars in the world via beloved sitcom Friends, Jennifer Anniston starred in Leprechaun (1993). It’s also no secret that Anniston isn’t too keen on talking about Leprechaun and gets a bit shirty whenever it’s brought up. Why I do not know. For one, Mark Jones’ joyously silly shocker is great fun, and, thanks to the obsessive nature of horror fans, will live on long after the rest of her resume fades from cultural memory. For another, Jen ain’t that bad in it; hell, she certainly equips herself better than her Friends co-star Matt LeBlanc does in LOOKIN’ ITALIAN. Shot just before LeBlanc’s breakout role as lovable dumbass Joey Tribbiani, his performance in this dud low-budget amalgam of Goodfellas (1990), Reservoir Dogs (1992), and Boyz n the Hood (1991) is cringe-inducing.
All gurning, shouty, and as undisciplined as a prima-donna stage school kid, LeBlanc makes Anniston’s early turn look Oscar worthy — though blaming him for such histrionic mugging would be a mite unfair. Instead, we should point the finger at writer/director Guy Magar. The man responsible for such distinguished yet ludicrously underappreciated fare as Retribution (1987), The Stepfather III (1992), and Children of the Corn: Revelations (2001), here the generally pretty reliable Magar goes completely off the boil. Despite rooting Lookin’ Italian in his go-to themes of identity, guilt and human connection, the Cairo-born maverick’s wildly unfocused script and cack-handed direction results in even the usually excellent Jay Acovone coming across as an inept ham. Clumsily flitting between broad comedy, po-faced family drama, and shoddy crime saga, Magar’s supposed ‘Scorsese homage’ isn’t so much Mean Streets (1973) as it is an overly swear-y Dolmio advert, his attempts at exploring Italian-American life in ‘90s L.A. (presumably the Egyptian émigré saw parallels with his own cross-cultural upbringing) amounting to little more than a bunch of crudely drawn caricatures bellowing “Mamma Mia!” and “fuhgeddaboudit” at each other. Still, as tonally, structurally and rhythmically haphazard as it is, Lookin’ Italian is gifted a moderately stylish sheen by cinematographer Gerry Lively, and Magar’s overreliance on cartoonish stereotypes provides some wonderful accidental laughs that lovers of primo auteur-driven dreck like The Room (2003) or Double Down (2005) should lap up.
A once ubiquitous sight in video and DVD bargain bins the U.K. over, Lookin’ Italian experienced a similar fate stateside where it was released as ‘Showdown’.
USA ● 1994 ● Drama ● 97mins
Jay Acovone, Matt LeBlanc, Lou Rawls, John LaMotta ● Wri./Dir. Guy Magar