When I was 13 years old, I was watching a Chuck Norris movie called, Code of Silence. At that point, it was the best Chuck Norris movie I had ever seen. Better than The Octagon, better than Lone Wolf McQuade, and better than Missing in Action. As my father and I watched it, what made it so good was one guy… Dennis Farina. A cop film set in Chicago, with a guy who was once a cop in Chicago. Pock faced and raspy voiced, he was not the standard movie star type… just real.
A few years later he starred in what is still one of my favorite T.V. series of all time… Crime Story. Produced my Michael Mann, it was a old school cop drama that involved the mob and was set in Chicago during 1963. Farina’s character, Lt. Mike Torello was amazing. He played this character top to bottom…perfect. Michael Mann was more involved with another little show called, Miami Vice and Crime Story met a quick and abrupt 2nd season ending finale, that never quite resolved anything. The last season of Miami Vice featured Dennis Farina. Michael Mann loved him and kept utilizing him consistently.
Dennis Farina moved on to one of the most fantastic and highly regarded bodies of work that any actor could imagine…
Here are some of the best:
Manhunter (1986)- Directed by Michael Mann… The first time Hannibal Lecter is ever portrayed on screen, by the ridiculously cool Brian Cox (I’m one of a few that thought he was as good as Anthony Hopkins.). Dennis Ferina was “Jack Crawford”.
Midnight Run (1988)- Charles Grodin, Robert De Niro, John Ashton( Beverly Hills Cop). Dennis was, “Jimmy Serrano”. “Pineapple Express” and many movies have bitten off this classic.
Get Shorty (1995)-Ray “Bones” Barboni. He is better than anyone in this film… Way above the stars on every level.He crushed the character and crushed the movie, he stole every scene he was in. It didn’t matter if he was in a scene with John Travolta… or the late, great James Gandolfini. He went so totally out of bounds and then made you like him. Amazing for a guy who had zero acting training.
And possibly my favorite…
Guy Ritchie’s film, SNATCH
Cousin Avi, one of the coolest characters… “Shut up and sit down Doug, you big bald ####.”( Trying to keep it PG, but you get the drift.)
Farina was so perfect as the cousin from America who didn’t understand anything British, he just wanted a little umbrella in every drink.
“Should I call you Bullet? Tooth? Soccer star Vinnie Jones’ retort was,”You can call me Susan if it makes you happy!”
Dennis Farina went on to do “Law and Order” and many other roles you will remember… Just try to remember him, a truly great character.