Ten Benny (1995)

“When the odds are against you, sometimes the only bet is yourself.” Directed by Eric Bross (Stranger Than Fiction), this low-key flick (also known as Nothing to Lose) deals with this brain-dead punk from New Jersey named “Ray” (Adrien Brody) who gets way over his head after he borrows $10,000 from a loan shark. Ray works as a shoe salesman, wears expensive suits and dreams of marrying his high school sweetheart, the big-haired “Joanne” (Sybil Darrow). He blows all of the money on a “sure thing” at the harness track and now he’s got to try to raise the cash within a few days or get his legs broken by mobsters. Meanwhile, his buddy “Mike” (Michael Gallagher) is scamming on Joanne and eventually gets her into the sack. And his other friend, “Butchie” (Tony Gillan), keeps trying to take on the mobsters all by himself. I enjoyed the performance of Brody as he keeps cluelessly throwing himself into various crises of his own making. In a way he reminded me of “Spider” in Goodfellas. One of the best things about this flick is the performance of Frank Vincent, the prototypical gangster type who appeared in Goodfellas, Casino and The Sopranos. Vincent plays low-level mobster “Ray Sr.” who got busted in the 1980s for running a casino out of his modest ranch house. Now he’s out of the game and trying to make an honest living by cold calling his neighbors to see if they need any home repairs. He’s also attempting to keep his idiot son out of trouble, a futile task that ends up in a face-to-face confrontation with the loan shark (one of the best scenes in the movie). I think this is one of Vincent’s most low-key performances but even here his very presence on the screen always demands your complete attention. The movie’s title has nothing to do with gambling; it actually refers to Paul Newman’s shoe size. Go figure!

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