Written by Peter Panagos and directed by Joseph Pupello, Dress Code is a crime drama that stars Freddie Maas, Frank Osso, Edward Socienski, Alex DiTrolio & Maria Marinaro. Gerard Garilli plays Bobby Russo who was born into a life of organised crime. As his family teaches the time tested traditions of loyalty, respect and honour in the mafia life, Bobby realises that secrets can be dangerous and that they are closing in around him.
Gangster epics have been hard to pull off recently both due to the high bar set by some of the most famous films in the genre and because it is extremely hard to bring anything original to the table. Dress Code turns out to be a peculiar case in this regard as while it doesn’t hold a candle to the best of the genre, it is original. It is clear that Peter and Joseph have moved heaven and earth to bring something new to the table and they have made a film that does not only successfully upend genre conventions but manages to do so in a way that feels fresh. In a genre where most entries fall short, this should be commended.
Every gangster epic should be populated with memorable characters, dark and unpredictable storylines and violence that reflects the unravelling of the seemingly perfect world that the gangsters find themselves in. Dress Code manages to incorporate all of this and more and therefore, it is highly satisfying to watch as the story unravels and the characters find themselves in peril. From the signature dry humour to the capacity of violence, the film carefully takes each necessary aspect of a gangster film and makes it part of the story flawlessly.
The film is stacked to the top with fantastic actors, all of whom give it their all to bring the story to life. From Gerard as Bobby Russo to Maria Marinaro, each actor has been casted perfectly according to his or her character. This brings a sense of authenticity to the story as actors get totally lost in their characters and this results in a story that feels true to its roots. Kudos to the director for extracting authentic performances from his actors in a way that services the very nature of the story.
Equally impressive is the cinematography that brings the story to life in a manner that is both glorious and electric. Cinematographer Andrew Froening understands the assignment well and has shot the story in a way that feels both gritty and grounded.
From the drama to the violence, each aspect of the film is well lit and perfectly choreographed. The polished look of the film helps the film look like a proper gangster epic, one that can go toe to toe with some of the most recent fare in the genre. Similarly, the sound design is well done as well as it helps create the crime infested world that the audience is thrust into.
Running at almost two hours long, another great thing about the film is that it is structured in a way that it doesn’t drag or feel convoluted. This is where the editing prowess comes into play and Andrew Froening has hit it out of the park in this aspect as well. The narrative pacing is damn near perfect and there is not a single dull moment in the entire film. Gangster films have a tendency to slowly build up the tension as they lay the groundwork for the violence to follow but Dress Code doesn’t hold back in this regard. Galloping from the get go, the film builds simmering tension in a way that feels exciting before letting it all play out in a glorious display of aggression and violence.
Therefore, Dress Code is a film that exceeds on several different levels at once and comes across as a tribute to a glorious genre that is at risk of dying out due to changing audience demands. From the characters to the story and from the cinematography to the violence, each aspect of the film comes across as exceedingly well done. Writer Peter Panagos and director Joseph Pupello have made a film that is not only a fantastic gangster epic but a film that terrifies, enthrals and turns into a cautionary tale of a life on the other side of the law.
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ABOUT THE DiRECTOR – Joseph Pupello
Joseph Pupello is a co-founder of Oh Well Productions with business partner and longtime friend, Peter Panagos.
Joseph, and Oh Well Productions have just produced their second feature length film, Dress Code; this time making his directorial debut. Joseph & Oh Well Productions currently have a number of projects in pre-production with Joseph attached to both produce and direct.