Admitting to accidental shoplifting, young, carefree travelling New Yorkers Bill Gambini (Ralph Macchio) and Stan Rothenstein (Mitchell Whitfield) are shocked to find themselves imprisoned in a sleepy Alabama town, charged with murder.
Gambini’s one phone call summons his cousin Vinny (Joe Pesci), a badly dressed rookie lawyer (and former auto mechanic from Brooklyn) who has managed to pass the bar exams after five failures and is looking forward to his first court case.
Pesci has great fun with his role – a character inspired by the character of Joey La Motta in Raging Bull (which Pesci played a dozen years earlier) and a huge departure from his Oscar-winning turn as a gangster in Goodfellas (1990) – and he makes light work of befuddling Fred Gwynne’s sleepy Alabama judge.
But the biggest surprise is Marisa Tomei, who plays his coarse leather-clad girlfriend, Mona Lisa Vito.
Although she’s great in what was her first major role, there was widespread surprise when she walked off with the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, beating three British nominees, including Miranda Richardson for her role in Damage.
Mona Lisa Vito
Judge Chamberlain Haller
Jim Trotter III