Picks and Pans Review: Ruby
Ollie, we hardly knew ye.
With the hysterical, paranoid wheedling of Oliver Stone's JFK still echoing through the theaters, assassination reconstructionists are treated to this new conspiracy fest.
The lone director theory is obviously history, in any case. This film, directed by Briton John (The Long Good Friday) Mackenzie, is less of a letter to the editor disguised as a movie than JFK is. But it indicts not only the Mafia, CIA and FBI for complicity in the murder of the President, it also indirectly tosses into the plot a Frank Sinatra-like singer named Tony Montana, who entertains a mob summit by singing "Day In, Day Out."
Most of the film, though, traces the life of Jack Ruby (Aiello), the Dallas strip-club owner renowned for killing suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Mackenzie and British screenwriter Stephen Davis try to make a case that Ruby, acting for both the CIA and the Mafia, was a subcontractor who killed Oswald, though the reason is never clear.
Their theory makes for neither a convincing argument nor an involving movie. For one thing, they portray Ruby as so ineffectual—a slimy pimp in his most successful moments—that he seems incapable of such a big-time crime. He is totally unsympathetic, even when Mafia hoods or Arliss (For the Boys) Howard, a CIA representative, menace him. And Aiello (Do the Right Thing) never gives the character a human dimension, relying on his main acting technique: braying, in-your-face New York City attitude, which is disconcerting in a guy who's supposedly from Chicago.
Fenn (Twin Peaks) seems to be doing a Marilyn Monroe imitation as a naive stripper Aiello hires and then ""introduces to" Montana and to Kennedy, among other lusting sorts. Once Mackenzie trots out news footage of the Kennedys in Dallas, the end of his movie is a foregone conclusion and events drone to their inevitable end, with Aiello dying of cancer in prison. (R)