Skip to main content

MOB LAW

UK / USA, 1997 (MIFF 1998, Documentaries)

Director: Paul Wilmshurst

An absolutely astounding documentary about the life and (alleged) crimes of Oscar Goodman - Mob lawyer. Fans of Scorsese's Casino will recognise Goodman who played himself as Robert DeNiro's court counsel, a role Oscar also played in real life when he represented the Vegas Mafioso that DeNiro's character was based on. Thoroughly convinced of his own innocence, and living by the twisted maxim that even hardened criminals and killers deserve the best legal representation possible, Goodman is a walking contradiction.

A devout Jew, a loving husband and a doting father, Goodman rose from new kid on the block to courtroom hotshot when a casino pit boss recommended him to some influential hoods back in the 1950s. Throughout five decades he has represented a Who's Who of the US underworld, scoring a enviable record of successful defences, keeping his clients (and himself) out of federal penitentiaries.

Director Paul Wilmshurst is fascinated by "Las Vegas culture and brutal men" and has lovingly captured the high-rolling glitz, corruption and contradictions of this desert Gomorrah. His portrait of Goodman is balanced, Wilmshurst allowing the lawyer to reveal his dark soul through his own confessions.

A confrontational finale ensues when Wilmshurst arranges an isolated desert meeting between Goodman and legendary FBI undercover agent Rick Baken. Their fiery exchange is a face off between powerful men who believe they categorically represent good and evil and their spitting, rage-fuelled attacks on one another is terrifying. One of the year's finest documentaries.

Paul Wilmshurst was, according to Broadcast magazine, warned by Oscar Goodman: "Make a film that jeopardises either me or my family and I'll have you killed." It was never determined whether the threat was serious, but, as Mob Law producer Gary Johnstone says, "...it was incredibly hard to know if Oscar was for real or just kidding. But the people he associates with do kill people."

See also...

THE VOICE OF BERGMAN

"An inspiring documentary, The Voice of Bergman offers a rare and fascinating opportunity to hear 79 year old Swedish master Ingmar Bergman speak for almost an hour and a half about what the cinema ... More »

EAST SIDE STORY

Films showing workers singing in fields, teenagers dancing on the beach, or glam­orous working women are not widely associated with socialist European countries. This may change with Dana Ranga's ... More »

OFF SEASON

Mostar, 1994. The Bosnian War is over; a Muslim woman picks over her beloved books and other heirlooms. Like most other inhabitants of the Muslim quarter of the city, she has lost almost everything ... More »

KID NERD

Misunderstood, misrepresented, often just missed the mark... nerds come back with their own voice, their own thick-rimmed glasses and their own geeky foibles in a documentary which pulls not a single ... More »

WAR ZONE

War Zone tackles head-on the everyday issue of the public harassment of women. Shot throughout the USA, filmmaker Maggie Hadleigh-West turns the camera on men in the same way that they turn their ... More »

WACO: THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

Not since Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (MIFF 1996), has a documentary delved so deeply, thoroughly and compellingly into an incident thought closed by most. Director William ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director