Frank Nitti: The Enforcer (1988)

‘Every great men needs an enforcer’

Directed by:
Michael Switzer

Written by:
Lee David Zlotoff

Anthony LaPaglia (Frank Nitti), Vincent Guastaferro (Al Capone), Trini Alvarado (Anna), Michael Moriarty (Hugh Kelly), Michael Russo (Paul Ricca), Clayton Landey (Ted Newberry), Bruce Kirby (Anton Cermak), Mike Starr (Sergeant Harry Lang)

The real life prohibition era gangster Frank Nitti is mostly known as the psychopathic killer played by Billy Drago in Brian de Palma’s The Untouchables (1987). One year later, Nitti would get his own (TV) movie. This is a more biographical approach to telling the gangster’s life story, who was – as it turns out – much more than merely an enforcer.

When his friend and boss Al Capone went to prison, he took over as boss of the Chicago outfit. Nitti was very clever. Even during the time when street fighter Capone was running things, he would often come up with the best strategies for maintaining power in Chicago. But things turned sour when the police attempted to kill him and other (business) problems arose when the Mafia’s big cash cow – the prohibition – came to an end.

Anthony LaPaglia plays a solid lead role, but unfortunately Vincent Guastaferro is less convincing in the crucial role of Al Capone. Another weak point of the movie is the screenplay. Often, it is hard to see what goes on in the character’s mind and what drives his actions. Especially at the end when he makes the dramatic decision of ending his own life, which was indeed how Nitti died (rather than being thrown off a building by Elliot Ness). On the flip side, the movie looks pretty good. And Trini Alvarado plays a small, but disarming role as Nitti’s wife Anna who tragically dies towards the end.


FRANK NITTI: “If somebody big wants to fall, then the world would have to fear and respect the man who brought him down. But not if it’s done in the dark.”

Anthony LaPaglia would later play Al Capone in Road To Perdition although his scenes would be deleted.


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