The credits say this film was directed by Brian De Palma, but aside from some nice camera work, this wrongheaded gangster comedy could have come from nearly any sub-Neal Israel '80s-comedy hack. Wrong from the first scene -- which finds Danny De Vito doing a tired impression of Robert De Niro's "You talkin' to me?" bit -- Wise Guys becomes unbearable upon the entrance of Joe Piscopo. After the failure of his film career, Piscopo became something of an easy target, but films like these put that failure into its proper context. Finding a couple of character tics -- bug-eyes and a whiny voice -- and sticking with them, Piscopo proves a serious debit whenever onscreen. Not that the film has much going for it without him: The wicked satirical streak evidenced in De Palma's best work is nowhere to be seen in this leaden farce that scarcely offers a laugh. Dan Hedaya and Harvey Keitel come off relatively well in supporting roles, but this film deserves to retain its near-footnote status in the director's filmography.
by Keith Phipps review