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The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (1971)

Jerry Orbach , Leigh Taylor-Young , James Goldstone  |  PG-13 |  DVD
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Jerry Orbach, Leigh Taylor-Young, Jo Van Fleet, Lionel Stander, Robert De Niro
  • Directors: James Goldstone
  • Writers: Jimmy Breslin, Waldo Salt
  • Producers: Irwin Winkler, Robert Chartoff
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: June 20, 2006
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ERVK3U
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,709 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Theatrical trailer

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Beppo, Ezmo, Mario...uh-oh! When Kid Sally and his gang of goodfellas come up with a plan to grab a piece of the mob action, it'll be a no-brainer. The screen version of newspaperman Jimmy Breslin's best-selling comic novel about a Brooklyn turf war has all chambers firing. Jerry Orbach (Law & Order) plays Kid Sally, a small-timer aiming for the big time by targeting rival Baccala (raspy-voiced Lionel Stander). And on-the-rise screen giant Robert De Niro plays Mario, posing as a priest in the Kid's scheme to give Last Rites to Baccala. It's the perfect crime. Planned by perfect idiots.

Take a glance at the credits and you'll see that director James Goldstone's 1971 comedy The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight is the work of some mighty impressive names. Screenwriter Waldo Salt had already won an Oscar for Midnight Cowboy, and would go on to write Coming Home and Serpico. Jimmy Breslin, upon whose book the movie is based, was a celebrated New York newspaper columnist. The cast includes a young Robert DeNiro, Jerry Orbach (decades before being unforgettably cast as Det. Lennie Briscoe in Law & Order), film veteran Lionel Stander, the very appealing Leigh Taylor-Young, and even Herve Villechaize (yes, Tattoo from Fantasy Island, except here his every line of dialogue has been dubbed by someone without an accent). Unfortunately, the film is decidedly less than the sum of its parts. The cast acquits itself adequately, notwithstanding some heavy-handed stereotypes (Jo Van Fleet, as the Orbach character's knife-happy mama, wears out her welcome early in the first reel). But Goldstone's background was mostly in television, and he handles the film with a heavy hand more suited to a bad sit-com. The story, such as it is, concerns the efforts of the hapless Kid Sally Palumbo (Orbach) and his dumb cronies to usurp mob boss Baccala's (Stander) power. Sally and his gang are inept--it's they, not Baccala, who keep getting knocked off--but not as lame as the movie, which relies on obvious gags, poorly-timed physical shtick, and an unconvincing romance between DeNiro's Italian bike racer-con man and Taylor-Young's Angela (as Sally's sister, although she's about as Italian as Mary Tyler Moore). Some of the bits are amusing, especially those featuring a lion (don't ask) in Sally's charge, but by and large, The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight is a dull disappointment. The DVD includes no bonus material. --Sam Graham

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Example Of Dark Comedy August 30, 2002
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
This is such a funny movie, but not in the obvious slapstick or toilet humor vein that passes for modern movie comedy nowadays. In this spoof of the Mafia and an attempted "hostile takeover", the humor is dark, sometimes subtle, with hilarity that simmers just under the surface. It helps to know something about Italian families---both regular and criminal---, but this movie is painfully funny nevertheless, much in the same way as the great British series "Fawlty Towers". This is a very 70's type of comedy, demanding that the viewer have an attention span and a sharp eye for detail. Like British and other genre comedies, it may not be for everyone, but we found it very enjoyable.
The cast is terrific: Jerry Orbach is perfect for the part of the luckless Sally Palumbo, Jo Van Fleet gives an incredible performance as his creepy mother, Leigh Taylor-Young is both tough and sweet as his little sister, and a young Robert DeNiro is superb as the con-artist Mario. The others, including Herve Villechaize, Lionel Stander, Joe Stantos and Frank Campanella, are all great and there isn't a bad actor in the wide array of supporting players. The story line is also well-written, taking the viewer on one sick and crazy ride through the bowels of both the Mafia and a "typical" Italian family---and who can say which is worse?
Pay close attention when watching this; some jokes are more readily apparent than others. Our personal favorites included: the panties' check done on the little sister by the neighborhood thugs as she heads for school (After which they report to her mother that, yes, she's wearing them.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NOW this is Entertainment! July 2, 2002
Format:VHS Tape
Unfortunely this movie was a sleeper in the theatres when it first came out. But check out the cast! Jo Ann Fleet (thoughtly modern millie) and Robert DeNiro in a comedy.An a comedy it is. It's just pure fun and a great uplifing movie if you have the blues. It's so funny and you won't be disappointed,,,i promise..
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really, it isn't all that bad November 27, 2006
This flick is getting panned by reviewers who measure it with the yardstick of DeNiro's other work and Orbach's later greatness as Lennie Briscoe in "Law & Order", but if the truth be known, it's a precursor of "Johnny Dangerously". Orbach plays Kid Sally Palumbo, a "young Turk" of the Mob, resentful of his boss Baccala (Lionel Stander), who has the cliche "moustache Pete" old-line contempt for Kid Sally's small faction. Urged on by his grandmother Big Mama (Jo Van Fleet), he follows her advice not to take anything from anybody. When the Palumbo faction is finally rounded up by the cops, she has a lot to say to news cameras after Kid Sally just flips them the bird. Her first two bits of invective make broadcast as they watch themselves on the news, but then censors start to bleep her out. At that point, she leaps to her feet and shakes her fist at the screen, denying that she'd ever said "beep". The later work "Johnny Dangerously" was dismissed as "puerile" by reviewers and so it was. So's this one, but there's a certain entertainment value to "dopey fun", as you see every night of the week on TV's "reality shows". But they don't get slammed very much. I wonder why.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a fun movie with great acting February 27, 2010
The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight has very good acting; and although it's funny it's still not quite as funny as I hoped. The gags are, for the most part, good but the acting is better still; we get a rare comic turn from a very young Robert De Niro and other actors including Jerry Orbach are wonderfully convincing in their roles. In addition, the cinematography and the choreography really lack nothing; these two things are done very well. The movie flows along at a good pace, all right; but there are just not enough really big laughs to bat this out of the ballpark and make it a true classic comedy.

When the action starts, we quickly meet several people: there's Mafia boss Baccala (Lionel Stander) with his buddies including "Water Buffalo" (Frank Campanella). There's also Kid Sally (Jerry Orbach), who is working on a bicycle race project for Baccala (don't ask) and Kid Sally is on pretty good terms with other members of Baccala's group including Beppo (Hervé Villechaize). The bicycle race brings many contestants from Italy; and one of them is the incredibly streetwise Mario (Robert De Niro).

However, all does not go well. The bicycle race is canceled after the wooden indoor track is not completed; and Baccala tells Kid Sally that from now on Kid Sally will only be his chauffeur--and nothing else, no chance for climbing the ladder inside the Mafia world. This certainly does not please Kid Sally's mother Big Momma (Jo Van Fleet, who does this role wonderfully); although his sister Angela (Leigh Taylor-Young) doesn't seem to care.

To make a long story short without spoilers, Mario from Italy strikes up a relationship with Angela; and Kid Sally recruits some of Baccala's men to organize an all-out gang war in Brooklyn where Baccala's offices are located.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars keystone mafia? January 19, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
this is a very funny movie with a lot of action. original book written by jimmy breslin; this is the mafia as never seen before. very early robert deniro in a comedy role. hilarious. must see!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good One!
Just as good as when I first saw it in 1972.
Published 1 month ago by John McLennan
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 3 months ago by Manuel J Correia
4.0 out of 5 stars Bought for my daughter
See my review of the book herein. I have not watched this movie but it has to be very funny.
Published 4 months ago by Frank Hasty
5.0 out of 5 stars Great comedy
I haven't seen this in decades. Many Italian Americans (I am one) objected to it at the time, so I think it's still banned from TV. I never saw it as terribly offensive. Read more
Published 5 months ago by carver
3.0 out of 5 stars Back in the day, this was hilarious!
I lived in the NY area back when this was made. I also used to read Jimmy Breslin and knew the back-stories of the characters and events parodied in this movie. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Dr. Bill B.
3.0 out of 5 stars The movie that couldnt shoot straight
Sad to see top actors to work in such a B rated movie. Im not going to through it a way but when I lend it out and I forget about it, I'll forgetaboutit.
Published 8 months ago by Andre Sarkissian
2.0 out of 5 stars Save your money ...
The presentation was technically ok, but the plot and story line were juvenile, impossible in places and implausible throughout.

Save your money!
Published 12 months ago by Big Daddy
5.0 out of 5 stars Memories
Brought back some funny memories of Brooklyn. Great for some good laughs. If you remember the Gallo brothers you need to get this movie.
Published 19 months ago by Bob Kneisel
2.0 out of 5 stars Not funny, not a mob movie,
This movie didn't seem to know what it wanted to be and ended up being nothing. Not knowing what to expect I thought I'd either get a mob movie about the Gallos, or a parody of mob... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Tom230
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Film
This is a classic spoof of the Italian Mafia wanna be. It is a funny film that hasn't lost much from the actual book by Jimmy Breslin. Read more
Published on September 6, 2011 by Trudeau
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