Directed by Eytan Rockaway.
Starring Harvey Keitel, Sam Worthington, John Magaro, AnnaSophia Robb, Minka Kelly, Jackie Cruz, David Cade and Shane McCrae.
Meyer Lansky (Harvey Keitel) wants to unburden himself. His confessor of choice is David Stone (Sam Worthington), a down at heel bestselling author in need of luck. Unfortunately, there are other interested parties, who have more than a passing interest in the life of Meyer Lansky.
Lansky offers up a conundrum which never gets resolved. This Eighties set expose into the life of infamous instigator and numbers man Meyer Lansky lacks teeth. It has nothing to do with Harvey Keitel, who assumes the title role with consummate ease. Nor should Sam Worthington be blamed, who sits across from him for a majority of its two hour run time.
Their dynamic is an easy one and both leads work hard to make this crime drama engaging. However, disjointed time jumps and a substantial lack of perceived threat hamper any potential momentum. Sitting in a diner waxing lyrical about his past life, Keitel always holds the attention, but director Eytan Rockaway does little beyond that.
Minka Kellly, known for DC’s Titans, is underused and an obvious femme fatale without anything substantial to do. Federal law enforcement officials never really make an impact and a lot of screen time is wasted. Sam Worthington’s David Stone never has a sense of family, beyond harried phone calls, while his reaction to infidelity feels insubstantial. Again, this has little to do the performance and more to do with the material. However, saving graces do come in the form of Robert Magaro, who shines opposite AnnaSophia Robb’s Anne Lansky.
As a young Meyer Lansky he is calculating, cold and devious. Alongside him both Shane McCrae and David Cade add weight as Ben Seigel and Charlie Luciano. If there is a heart to this film it can be found here. In amongst the truncated flashbacks, lacklustre pacing and half measure histrionics this trio hold things together.
Production designer April Lasky may capture time periods perfectly, either in New York circa 1912 or Cuba time stamped at 1946, but something is lacking. Dynamic moments feel glossed over, audacious character beats underwhelm and denouncements lack impact. Lanksy should be The Untouchables in period approach, The Godfather Part II in atmosphere and be held together by a sly confessional narrative. This film, although entertaining, never comes close to achieving those aims. This feels more like a reminiscence than anything more subversive, which is a crying shame.
That being said, somewhere within Lansky is a good film fighting for air. However, that central conceit never pays off, Harvey Keitel slips into low gear and Sam Worthington potters off for his pay cheque. There are no last minute surprises, no big reveals and all that remains is an overwhelming sense of mediocrity. As a premise Lansky had promise and there is still a great film to be made. Unfortunately, this is not it.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★