The Life I Lived is like an extremely low budget version of Goodfellas or The Godfather. It chronicles the life of Bill Cacchiotti an electrician turned gangster and he narrates the action explaining events as they unfold. The film focuses on Bill´s deterioration as the guilt of what he does drives him to drink and causes him to destroy his family. This is derivative and cliched stuff which asks too much of the cast and ultimately fails to convince as a portrayal of the world of organized crime.
We open with two suited men waiting in the woods for a secret meeting which turns bad and ends in murder. It´s poorly scripted and badly acted and bears no relation to a believable situation as the two killers aren´t sure what to do with the body, eventually deciding to burn it which they do incompetently by spraying on some lighter fluid. This opening scene sets the tone for the whole film.
The script by Ben E. Solenberger is ambitious and as Bill prepares to retire from his life of crime and pass the mantle onto his son Eddie we jump around in time to find out how he became a gangster. The convoluted story is full of cliches and ideas pinched from better films and sadly The Life I Lived doesn´t really do them any justice. The dialogue is not terribly convincing and scenes like the poker game where Bill is inducted as a gangster come off awkwardly because the direction and acting are also poor.
The acting is mostly amateurish but there are a couple of decent performances. Richard Bennett plays the central role of Bill Cacchiotti and he certainly looks the part but a lot is expected of him here as he narrates the action as well, the problem is he lacks the charisma of someone like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas so you don´t sympathise with him or root for him. His right hand man Gary is played ably by Ted Taylor and he seems to lend the production a relaxed touch of reality. The rest of the cast including David L. Buckler as Bill´s son Eddie are less believable.
The direction also by Solenberger is competent but uninspiring. The heavy handed musical score detracts from the action and the locations are dull and predictable. As the action jumps around things become quite disjointed and Solenberger fails to create a convincing underworld for Bill to operate in.
This is an ambitious project and within the limitations he has Solenberger does a reasonable job but the main reason this film falls down is the script. There are far too many cliched lines and unrealistic conversations and the fragmented action gives the impression of a bunch of random gangster cliches tagged together into a film rather than a coherent story. The low production values give the film the feel of a television movie and while it is mildly diverting coming in at just under an hour and twenty minutes you´d likely feel disappointed if you parted with any cash to see it.