''Mobsters'' is a bloody little fairy tale that makes good guys out of Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky.
According to the film, a largely plodding affair, they were just four kids who liked to kill people once in a while.
The real villain of the piece is Mad Dog Coll, who may or may not have known these buys, but what's it matter? This is, after all, a fantasy.
''Mobsters,'' shot in California, takes place in New York (1917 to 1931) where the four leading characters begin their association as boys.
The town is controlled by two men, Don Faranzano (Michael Gambon) and Don Masseria (Anthony Quinn), gang lords who erase all those who stand in their way and some who do not.
Luciano, Costello, Siegel and Lansky want to get rid of both these guys, so they play one against the other, hoping to take command when the two capos have been dethroned.
When they become young men, two of the four leads fall in love. Luciano falls in love with a chorus girl; Lansky, with a young thing who is immediately introduced to the brutal lives these guys lead.
Lansky marries. Luciano does not, but when he loses his girl, cries. Nice Lucky. Humane Lucky.
Much of the time, ''Mobsters'' plays like an old black-and-white Warner Bros. musical. You keep waiting for the Busby Berkeley numbers. The film could use them.
Christian Slater is Luciano, Costas Mandylor is Costello, Richard Grieco is Siegel, and Patrick Dempsey is Lansky. They're all very good, but Slater does the best. As Luciano, there is something sleazy-nice about him. You find yourself liking him when you shouldn't. We know the kind of guy he really was.
Nicholas Sadler is Mad Dog Coll, and vile as he is, almost takes the film from the others. F. Murray Abraham does a few scenes as Arnold Rothstein.
''Mobsters'' opens here today. One Hollywood source has dubbed the film, ''Young Buns With Guns.'' That's about the way it plays.
* The rise of organized crime in New York.
CAST: Christian Slater, Costas Mandylor, Richard Grieco, Patrick Dempsey, Anthony Quinn, F. Murray Abraham, Christopher Penn.
DIRECTOR: Michael Karbelnikoff
RATING: R (sex, nudity, language, violence)
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes