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'Playing for the Mob' uses 'Goodfellas' to tell BC point-shaving story

Mobster Henry Hill is one of the main

Mobster Henry Hill is one of the main player's in ESPN's "Playing for the Mob". Credit: ESPN

As if interspersing clips from "Goodfellas" weren't enough, the latest ESPN "30 for 30" offering, "Playing for the Mob," drives home the point by having the classic 1990 film's star, actor Ray Liotta, narrate the documentary.

To which I can only say: You had me at DeNiro!

The Boston College point-shaving scandal of the late '70s is a tale worth telling on its own, but by weaving it into the larger one told by director Martin Scorsese in "Goodfellas," fans of the movie will be powerless to resist.

"It brings such an extra level to the whole thing," said Joe Lavine, who directed "Playing for the Mob," premiering Tuesday night, with Cayman Grant. "Point shaving is one thing. Now add a movie that everybody knows . . . It was just a natural on our end in putting this together."

Lavine, a former longtime producer for HBO Sports, had been pitching a film for years without success that would focus on the BC scandal and the role of Henry Hill, the mobster whom Liotta played in "Goodfellas."

Then he got an unsolicited call from Grant, a Los Angeles filmmaker who had been working on a similar project and already had been in contact with Hill. She interviewed him in early 2012, shortly before he died at age 69.

Meanwhile, Lavine had been speaking to another key figure in the story, former BC player Jim Sweeney, who is the same age as Lavine and, like the director, grew up in Trenton, New Jersey.

"To me he was always the most compelling character," Lavine said of Sweeney, who was famous around town for his wholesome charm in addition to his basketball skills, adding to the shock when it all went wrong for him.

The two had gone to different private schools outside Trenton but had mutual friends. "I called him out of the blue and we started to have conversations," Lavine said.

Assorted other colorful characters come and go, both from real life and in clips from the film.

The result is an instant-classic addition to the "30 for 30" library.

New York Sports