Picks and Pans Review: Bella Mafia
CBS (Sun. and Tues., Nov. 16 and 18, 9 p.m. ET)
The cast looks strong, the premise promising: Mafia widows (Vanessa Redgrave, Nastassja Kinski, Jennifer Tilly and Illeana Douglas) team up to get even with the underworld enemies who murdered their men. There are so many ways to go with this material—from straight melodrama to The First Wives Club in gangland—that it seems Bella Mafia can't lose. But the tone of the miniseries turns out to be as uncertain as Redgrave's and Kinski's Italian accents.
The guys, wouldn't you know, are the biggest problem. It takes all of the first two hours to get the principal women into revenge mode because Dennis Farina (as Redgrave's husband, a Sicilian don with a Chicago accent) and Tony Lo Bianco (hamming shamelessly as his New York City rival) are given way too much time to talk tough. As the nutso hit man responsible for murdering nearly every male dear to Redgrave, Kinski and company, James Marsden is allowed to dominate the second night while the Mafia princesses mostly scream, dither and flounder. Marsden overacts wildly, but who wouldn't in such a multidimensional part? He's Kinski's illegitimate son (as well as her would-be seducer), Lo Bianco's adopted son and, judging from his behavior, the devil's spawn. At the end, when Kinski accedes to crime-family leadership a la Al Pacino in The Godfather, we're pretty sure Bella Mafia is winking at us. Let's give writer Lynda La Plante (Prime Suspect) the benefit of the doubt and interpret the whole thing as a bloody put-on.
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