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Picks and Pans Review: The Pope of Greenwich Village

updated 07/09/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/09/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Petty crooks taking a shot at the big time is not exactly an original subject, but Vincent Patrick's 1979 novel, The Pope of Greenwich Village, had genuine crackpot verve. The movie, from Patrick's own script, too often confuses busywork with energy. It also seems constructed from scrap parts. Yet the actors and the atmosphere of New York's Little Italy provide glue enough to create an emotionally engaging package. Mickey (Diner) Rourke and Eric (Star 80) Roberts are marvelously matched in the leads. Rourke, with enough suits and shoes to make a pimp envious, plays a failed Greenwich Village restaurant maitre d' ripe for a big score to impress his WASP girlfriend, Daryl (Splash) Hannah. His entrée to the world of crime is his hustling cousin (Roberts), a bag of bones and nerves hot for any get-rich-quick scheme. When the boys pull a safecracking job they find themselves on the wrong side of mobster Burt (Rocky) Young, a sadistic godfather who likes to hack off fingers to discourage ambitious punks. Martin Scorsese directing Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel in Mean Streets handled a similar story with pungent assurance. But the task is beyond Pope director Stuart (The Amityville Horror) Rosenberg, who keeps slamming through the picture as if he didn't trust the material enough to shape it. The blitz effect is hard on the actors, especially the otherwise striking Roberts, whose performance sometimes spins out of control, along with the film. The veterans fare best: Ken (Ragtime) McMillan is superb as an old safecracker, and Geraldine Page is Oscar-worthy as a cop's iron-willed mom. With more careful handling Pope might have been something extraordinary. Still, fired by Rourke and Roberts, it's an absorbing show, delivering in dazzle a lot of what it lacks in depth. (R)

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