"What is it you want, Frankie?"
"I don't gotta want something all the time, do I?"
"I never knew you when you didn't."
-Kathleen and Frankie Flannery.
Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather (1972) set the benchmark for all gangster movies. Each one which has come in the years since has been compared to it in one way or another. That's a reason why this film was overshadowed upon its initial release by The Godfather Part III as well as Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas. Like Coppola's gangster epic, this is a story of mobsters with the underlying current of family and loyalty. Sean Penn plays Terry Noonan, a fellow who returns from Boston to his childhood haunts in Hell's Kitchen, where he's happily reunited with his best friend Jackie Flannery (Gary Oldman) and Jackie's brother Frankie (Ed Harris). Unbeknownest to them, however, Terry is now an undercover cop sent to bring down their criminal organization before they can strike a deal with the neighboring Italian Mafia. At the same time, Terry rekindles his romantic relationship with the Flannerys' sister Kathleen (Robin Wright) who, like Diane Keaton's Kay in The Godfather, doesn't want anything to do with her family's business practices (to that end, she works at a hotel on the other side of the city). She makes it clear to Terry that she won't be with him if he plans to go along with Frankie and Jackie's dealings again. The acting is great all around, but Penn, whom I've always regarded as one of the most intense actors of our time, is the one who sells it. His self-conflict as he contends with betraying the guys he's known & loved since childhood are completely believable. At one point, he interrupts his lovemaking with Kathleen by screaming, "I'M A F***ING JUDAS COP!" This self-torment intensifies when he realizes that Frankie, unbeknown to Jackie & Kathleen, has killed another childhood pal of theirs (John C. Reilly). Even when Terry flat out tells his superior (John Turturro) that he quits the force, he knows that it's not that easy. Terry knows that the only way out of his situation is to see it through. *Thanks to Macphist0 at joblo.com/forums for recommending that I review this film.