Review of Corky Romano (2001)

Ten minutes into watching Corky Romano (2001), I worried that I had selected the wrong movie to review for FBI policy and procedural accuracy. Could a comedy starring SNL alum Chris Kattan, featuring lame jokes, fart gags, and pratfalls, provide teachable moments?

Here’s the IMDb story summary:
A naive, bumbling veterinarian named Corky Romano, the outcast son of a Mafia boss, is recruited by his family to infiltrate the FBI and steal any and all evidence that will put his cranky father, Francis A. “Pops” Romano, in jail. But he’s in way over his head when he’s made out to be a super agent. It’s a reputation he must live up to as he tries to fake his way through one tough assignment after another while hunting for the elusive, incriminating proof of his father’s illegal activities.

Because I had already invested $3.99 to rent the movie on Prime Video, I stuck to the plan and surfed the wild and unpredictable plot until the very end. Surprisingly, I came up with a few lessons to discuss related to security and evidence storage and retrieval. That’s a good thing. Otherwise, there would have been no reason for me to sit through the movie and I would have had to accept never getting back the one hour and twenty-six minutes spent. Bear with me. I will now seriously discuss investigative observations gleaned from Corky Romano.

To infiltrate the FBI, Corky’s brothers hire a hacker to create for him a fake personnel file that embellished his education, language skills, and law enforcement experience, and transferred him to an FBI field office where he is assigned to a task force hunting down a serial killer. In the real FBI, the Bureau “grapevine” would have immediately started collecting information (aka, book) on the new guy to obtain an assessment of whether he was a team player or an empty suit who didn’t pull his weight. Believe me, there’s no way for an agent to arrive in a new office without his new team hearing beforehand all about his prior triumphs and alleged shortcomings. The informal prescreening review is avoidable. Corky wouldn’t have been able to badge his way into the building without it.

The purpose of Corky going undercover is to steal the evidence the FBI has against his crime boss father. When he key cards his way into the evidence room to grab the evidence, it consists of a single manila envelope of documents. The FBI collects and stores evidence such as photos, FD-302 narrative interview summaries, internal documents, memos and transcripts in digital and physical files. Drugs and other bulky evidence are stored in evidence vaults. Files containing information related to human sources (HUMINT) and electronic surveillance (ELSUR) materials are separately stored elsewhere. And because evidence maintained without adhering to strict chain of custody procedures could be deemed tainted and inadmissible for trial, everything is secured, documented, and the identity of those who seek to access the evidence is tracked. It’s all based on “need to know,” and in real life, Corky wouldn’t need to know anything about an Organized Crime case he wasn’t assigned to work.

Spoil Alert: The movie ends when the FBI discovers Corky’s true identity. But all is forgiven because he solves the serial killer case. This is not how this matter would be resolved in real life. Unfortunately, FBI agents have been arrested for stealing from the evidence vault (usually drugs seized during their own cases) and accepting bribes to pass evidence to subjects under investigation. These sad incidents always result in multi-count indictments and significant prison time. The Bureau doesn’t go easy on agents who betray their oath to protect and serve.

If you want to squirm in your seat for 90 minutes and possibly giggle once or twice, check out Corky Romano. Watch the trailer here.

To listen to true crime stories featuring Organized Crime investigations, check out these FBI Retired Case File Review episodes.

Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, jokes that she writes about the FBI to relive her glory days. After 26 years with the Bureau specializing in major economic fraud and corruption investigations, she calls on her professional encounters with scams and schemers to write police procedurals inspired by true crime FBI cases in her Philadelphia FBI Corruption Squad crime fiction series featuring flawed female FBI agent Kari Wheeler. Jerri’s FBI for Armchair Detectives nonfiction series enables readers to discover who the FBI is and what the FBI does by debunking misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies. Her books are available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks wherever books are sold. She’s also the host of FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast with more than 200 episodes available for free subscription on all popular podcast apps.

2 Comments

  1. D.September 3, 2021

    Hi Retired Agent Williams,

    You wrote:

    “Unfortunately, FBI agents have been arrested for stealing from the evidence vault (usually drugs seized during their own cases) and accepting bribes to pass evidence to subjects under investigation. These sad incidents always result in multi-count indictments and significant prison time. The Bureau doesn’t go easy on agents who betray their oath to protect and serve.”

    It seems to me, after reading many books about the FBI over the past 2 ½ decades, and listening to Spycast, interviews with Frank Figliuzzi and other retired agents, plus his podcast, and your podcast, that the FBI doesn’t have any sort of “blue code of silence” still found in many police stations. Your above comment seems to illustrate my point, and that’s a wonderful thing.

    Protect and Serve…

    … In the 1980s, I lived in NYC near the Police Academy. My friends and I would eat lunch several times a week at a corner sandwich shop. EVERY time the Police Cadets came into the shop they harrassed young women they deemed pretty. It was always this one guy who started the cat calling, then two others would join. A couple Cadets looked uncomfortable, but mob mentality took over. IF one of these young women rebuked the Cadets (in a polite fashion), she would invariably be called the “B” word (rhymes with “itch”), and by this time– again, mob mentality, all six or seven guys were telling the girl off.

    I was in art school. My friends and I were definitely unique looking, each of us respectively, but we didn’t do drugs–we enjoyed learning, and ALL of us were successful in our fields. I say this because we didn’t just watch what was happening, we talked about it (none of us dared tell a Police Cadet to knock it off; the Policemen and Policewomen who worked out of the precinct on that street were ALWAYS kind and courteous to all of us in our art school (except one student who deserved what he got).

    I mention the Police Cadet story because my friends and I could not IMAGINE how these three main “rebel rousers” passed the personality or psych test (I don’t know what tests are given, if any, to Police Cadets).

    My point is simple:

    Wouldn’t it make sense to have someone like Frank Figliuzzi teach a class (or have someone else teach the class) to police cadets the country over, about the Seven Core Principles in his book THE FBI WAY?

    Of course, this must also be taught from the highest ranking Police Officer (Chief?) all the way down to cadets.

    And therein lies a problem: as in any business, there will be cheats and liars.

    This is getting long (and I can’t believe a Review of Corky Romano brought up such an obvious idea [you’re a better woman than me for making it through that film, and I’m a bonafide cinéaste]), but do you think it would EVER be possible to have Police Officers inherently and routinely abide by these rules IF there WERE strict consequences in place for those who broke the law, harassed innocent citizens waiting in line to buy lunch, stole drug money–or got paid by dealers to look the other way, etc?

    The Police Cadets should have been the ones in that sandwich shop that showed the most respect to others.

    I’m not at all anti-Police Officer: my friend was a Police Chief in his town. Police officers came to my aide when I was (I don’t want to give more private details) in an accident.

    There are very good and honest police officers, to be sure. But something has to change.

    I was doing career day at an elementary school and there was an FBI Agent there; many students hung on her every word. There’s honor and immense respect for the FBI (regardless of what political missteps, putting it lightly, in October 2016; and regardless of the POV of the last POTUS regarding our country’s intelligence agency’s).

    Do you think it would ever be possible to affect that kind of respect (it’s earned by the FBI, it’s not just given–i sincerely believe it’s earned) in police forces? And what could be done?

    Demanding Police Cadets and officers follow the seven virtues outlined in Frank Figliuzzi’s book could be a start. But again, the “dirty cops” will push back.

    I suppose I’m wondering if you think the Blue Wall of Silence can ever truly be torn down?

    Protect and Serve.

    I would like to think so. Perhaps better screening and psych tests?

    Thank you.
    My apologies for any typos.

    Reply
    1. Jerri WilliamsSeptember 7, 2021

      Thanks for commenting. I believe that there is no code of silence in the FBI. Agents who discover another agent is breaking the law do not hesitate to report them. Their fellow agents respect and admire them for coming forward. This is certainly a code of ethics in the FBI that everyone is expected to uphold.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top
Malcare WordPress Security