The Departed (or, as its Boston mafiosi would say, De-PAH-did) it most certainly ain't. By the Gun is a gangster film wholly devoid of suspense, atmosphere, or grit. It brings no joy to report that Harvey Keitel, as a supposedly fierce mafia don, merely looks weathered and miserable; or that the British, elfin Toby Jones was more at ease playing the considerably fatter and taller Karl Rove in Oliver Stone's W. than he is here as a would-be vicious henchman.
The fact that Jones and several other British performers (including star Ben Barnes and character actor Ritchie Coster) mangle their assigned South Boston dialects is the least of director James Mottern's worries. He's built this wispy, weepy tale around a protagonist so petulant, dim, and tongue-tied he stirs no audience sympathy, and a script (by Emilio Mauro) that aches to be wise-cracking and edgy but is just plain dreary.
As Nick Tortano, a newly made man who shifts loyalties between his boss (Keitel); his disapproving family; his enterprising, thieving friend (Boston rapper Slaine, the only effectively menacing presence here); and the beautiful daughter (Leighton Meester) of his boss's archrival, Barnes is all squinting, hair-flinging, nostril-flaring theatrics. He's supposed to be a tragic vessel of pent-up anger, but you just wonder why he's glaring at his detractors more often than beating them up.
Meanwhile, poor Meester is obligated to appear in the most excruciating courtship scene in recent memory. She rebuffs Barnes, flits her eyelashes at him, calls him ethnic slurs; he kisses her, quite badly; slinking off into her apartment, she says coyly, "I'm someone to love. Watch out." Watch out, indeed.