Murder Syndicate (2023) Review
Murder Syndicate opens with Isa (Diane Robin, Bad President, RoboCop) driving her car and dealing with her three squabbling offspring, Cain (Mark Justice, Mojave Diamonds, Don’t Fuck in the Woods 2), Becca (Jessica Morris, Legend of Fall Creek, Crabs!) and Jonah (Timothy Haug, Attack of the Southern Fried Zombies, Malady).
But this isn’t some suburban soccer mom taking her kids to school. She’s the head of a criminal syndicate and they’re professional assassins on the way to a job. A job that almost fails when Isa mysteriously collapses. Isa’s boyfriend Zane (Steven Martini, Major Payne, KillCam: Live) turns up in time to get them to safety but it’s obvious something is wrong. And that sign of weakness at the top sets a battle for control of the operation into motion.
Writer/director Michael Matteo Rossi (Shadows, Chase) gives Murder Syndicate one of the more unusual openings for a mob thriller but quickly gets back into familiar territory with a burst of action before setting up the web of conflicting loyalties that drive the film’s plot. The siblings squabble among themselves, each one convinced they should be the one to take over.
Zane, the outsider, isn’t trusted by Becca and Cain is outright hostile and threatening to him. Jonah, the more naive of the siblings is suspicious but willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Something the Zane seems to be trying to exploit to his own advantage and that also begs the question, would he really be a worse choice than the hot headed Cain?
Since, like all of Rossi’s films, Murder Syndicate was made on a limited budget the number of action scenes is similarly limited. There are some bullets fired and punches thrown, but that’s really not the focus here. Apart from the opening shootout and final confrontation, the film is a thriller with a touch of character study as we watch Jonah try to deal with the events around him rather than the mafia massacre film the title implies.
The cast does a good job with the material, the leads are a mix of well experienced character actors who deliver solid performances. The one exception is Timothy Haug who gives an equally solid performance as Jonah despite a more limited resume. Murder Syndicate does give us a couple of more familiar faces, Vernon Wells (Fear of the Woods – The Beginning, Camp Twilight) as a mobster and Chris Levine (Bad Bones, No Way Out) as a doctor.
One thing that did disappoint me however was the way Becca almost totally vanishes from the film. Since the film featured a female run mob which we don’t see very often I expected a bit more emphasis on her character and her place in the organization. Instead, she’s barely there and the one scene Becca and Isa have that should have been important goes nowhere. Despite being a less interesting character, Cain has a bigger role and Murder Syndicate would have been better if their parts were switched.
But, as noted, the film really is about Jonah and to a lesser extent Zane and the interaction between them. Can the less experienced young man tell who to trust and protect his family? Can he trust Zane, or should he listen to his siblings? It might not be what you’re expecting when you sit down to watch something called Murder Syndicate, but it is an interesting and often tense story.
When all is said and done, Murder Syndicate is a solid low budget thriller with a couple of decent exchanges of gunfire to serve as bookends. It’s not trying to be The Godfather, or The Godmother for that matter, but it is a good choice for an evening’s viewing.