A two-time world champion. An astute and articulate boxing analyst. A successful print model. A featured character in multiple video games. A commercial, film and TV actor. Paulie Malignaggi's versatility and appeal is boundless. His portrayal of a conflicted mobster finding his way to God after living a life of pain, betrayal and hardship in "Omerta: The Act of Silence" is another example of this. Writer, director and executive producer Craig Syracusa is hopeful that 2014 will be the year his film will be released and Paulie's emotional performance shared with a wider public.
Set in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn during a period when the mafia controlled the neighborhood and was idolized by those who wanted to be involved in that world, Malignaggi stars as Reno. An aspiring mobster, Reno first tastes power at the age of 18 and quickly finds himself fully emerged in the world he always dreamed to be a part of. Bound by the code of silence, Reno is arrested and imprisoned years later and is subsequently abandoned by those who fed his entire life with empty promises.
All that remains is Reno's own self-reflection and quest for redemption, confessing his sins to a local priest where the story is told in flashbacks. The pain and emotion stirred by Malignaggi impressed Syracusa.
"I've never seen anyone able to tap into their emotions so instantly, especially coming from a career where you're beating people up and you're not supposed to show emotion," said Syracusa who has worked with countless actors on several TV shows and movies.
Syracusa became friendly with fellow Bensonhurst resident Malignaggi soon after the fighter's loss to Amir Khan in 2010. Malignaggi, who was between fights and contemplating his future in boxing, expressed interest in the project after reading the script and signed on to play the part of Reno in his feature film debut. His acting credits also include the TV movie "Undefeated", an episode of the TV series "Lights Out" and the documentary "Magic Man" on which Syracusa also worked in 2007.
The film was initially filmed in 2011 and has undergone three rounds of editing. It premiered at the Shadow Box Film Festival in New York City earlier this month, coinciding with Malignaggi's fight with Zab Judah at the Barclays Center on December 7. Syracusa has actively been submitting the film to a variety of other film festivals, as well as Showtime and Golden Boy Promotions with hopes the limited budget film will be licensed and distributed this year so he can deliver its intended message.
"I want to attract someone who is doubting their faith and seeking something more out of life, who might be stuck in a situation and doesn't know what to do. You can overcome that through faith, through God and through mercy," explained Syracusa who himself turned his troubled life around and later went on to form Gods Plan Productions.
Syracusa found his inspiration for "Omerta" from journalist and best selling biographer Philip Carlo. Another Bensonhurst native, Carlo's work includes "The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer" and "The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez". Carlo, who passed away in November 2010, shared his memoirs with Syracusa to aid in the film's authenticity and character development.
Photo courtesy of Craig Syracusa from "Omerta: The Act of Silence".
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