Tony's Auto Repair

By Jordan T. Parrott and Johan T. Anderson | Drama
A crime boss mother discovers her son had an affair with a rival mob member.

Robert is the young scion of a crime family in early 80s New York City. He has also made a serious mistake, in the form of a body in the trunk of a car. He has taken refuge in an auto repair shop, where he awaits the arrival of his mother, Belle, who is the crime family boss.

When Belle arrives, she confronts Robert and learns that he had an affair with a member of a rival crime family. Belle dresses down her son and pressures him to show her the body in the trunk. The body is not what she expected, however, and it also reveals a certain fact about Robert that shocks her and changes her understanding of Robert. But it doesn't change her love for her son, and she offers him her affection and acceptance in the face of the reveal -- just before all hell breaks loose.

Directed by Jordan T. Parrott and Johan T. Anderson from a script written by Parrott, this short dramedy has the weighty, burnished look of a classic Coppola crime epic. Visually, the framing and movement of classical cinematic elegance and chiaroscuro-heavy cinematography endow its subjects with a certain ominous dignity, and it does the same here, starting from its nervy beginning when Belle sweeps into the auto repair shop to survey the mess her son Robert has gotten them in.

He's been carrying on with a member of a rival crime dynasty and shooting has happened that shouldn't have, making the family business even more complicated. The dialogue is hard-bitten and full of threat and power, the set-up full of tension and the characters recognizable to anyone familiar with the crime genre, right down to the seen-it-all henchman. But the film bucks genre conventions halfway through its runtime, when Belle demands a look at the body in the trunk of Robert's car, which reveals that fundamental assumptions she -- and perhaps the audience -- had about Robert have been wrong all along.

From there, the film takes a darkly humorous tone, as Belle shifts into loving mother-hen mode, reassuring her son that she accepts and loves him as he is. The comedy comes from the clash of genre and character, and actor Irene Glezos handles the oscillation beautifully, her performance both grandly broad and yet grounded in a moving emotional truth. Belle has a deep, abiding mother's love for her son, which wells up at this vulnerable point, as Robert unintentionally comes out to her. But just as they have a touching moment as parent and child, the business of crime also bubbles up, leading to hapless chaos.

Handsomely crafted with excellent writing and performances, "Tony's Auto Repair" offers a subversive, unexpected take on the crime genre, weaving a classic scenario with newly foregrounded social subtext. Often taking advantage of the idea of a crime dynasty to explore the power and dominance of powerful father figures, crime films have generally sidelined queer sexuality, along with expressions of matriarchal authority. The film takes a clever, funny but organic way to inject a more varied social fabric into the genre. There's still no shortage of violence, gunshots or menace, but there's heart and humor even as the body count grows.




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