There are few things cooler than Gangster films, they are a great way to delve into the underworld of criminal organisations, so I thought I would come up with some accounts of violence, racketeering and organised crime. Now.. before I start there are a couple of things I want to run over. I’m not going to be commenting on more than two movies per director, and I won’t be covering The Godfather Trilogy.. as it’s a predicable entry, although they are of course without saying classics worth viewing.
If you’re expecting an emotional story of guilt despair or retribution, then 1983’s Scareface is not the movie for you. Scareface is the story of greed and power, which leads to corruption. Where you get to see the darker side of the American Dream. While critics have criticised this move for been over the top and loud, I’m sure it’s cult followers would disagree. Scarface has what other movies of the time lacked, rawness. The Latino gangsters in this film come of far more menacing than in other movies. While I wouldn’t say this is Brian De Palma’s strongest work, it does however still has its moments of excellence and some highly memorable and quotable 1 liners.
Sergio Leones 1984 classic Once Upon a time in America is the story of friendship, love, loyalty and betrayal. The movie is taken from the pov of DeNiros character; David `Noodles’ Aaronson. A man brought up from the mean streets of Brooklyn during the era of prohibition, when organized crime was at its strongest. The film focuses on relationships over the many years of noodles life which unfolds slowly and reflectively. DeNiro’s portrayal is of a gangster with a conscience, while this doesn’t prevent him from being a ruthless killer, his life is clearly filled with remorse, regret and guilt. While this is one of the best the gangster genre has to offer. I’ll have to warn those you who haven’t seen it yet, it’s over 3 and a half hours long. And if you’re expecting hours of gun fights or cool one liners then I would not recommend this!
1990’s Goodfellas, Directed by one of Hollywoods best Martin Scorsese. Set in 1950’s-80’s the movie is based on the true-crime memoirs of the real life Mobster Henry Hill. Where it explores the lives of gangsters through the eyes of Ray Liottas character, who gets involved with the Mafia from a young age, witnessing all kinds criminal activities from brutality to murder as his ‘career’ continues throughout the film.
While Robert De Niro gives one of his best performances it’s Joe Pesci who wins all your attention. As soon he’s on screen he’s very hard to ignore. His role as the intimidating, loud-mouthed gangster Tommy DeVito is one you will not be forgetting anytime soon.
Goodfellas is one of those films that needs to be seen to be believed. Every scene, character, voice-over, song, – it all comes together at the right moment to create this near perfect gangster film experience.
In a nutshell the Coen brothers 1990’s masterpiece Miller’s Crossing, is a movie about loyalty, and the affect it has on Gabriel Byrnes character Tom Reagan, as well as everyone else around him. Tom Reagan is an amoral man, who takes more beatings than anyone I’ve seen in any movie. Men, women, collection men, bookies, gangsters, and even his own boss gives him an ass kicking.
Albert Finney’s “Danny Boy” scene is one of the most unpredictable and brilliant action scenes to date. The entire support cast performs to near perfection. And the script is snappy, with dialog that play tribute to the 1930’s gangster films.
“Miller’s Crossing” features fantastic pacing and dialog, although some would say it lacks the epic proportions of other better known gangster films. This movie has somehow gone under the radar and I will never understand why this film has not received more acclaim & recognition.
1993 Carlitos way directed by Brian De Palma follows Al Pacino’s character the Ex-drug dealer Carlito Brigante. Recently released from prison, Carlito tries to live a legit honest live while dealing with the ever present temptation of going back to his old habits and life style. Pacino delivers an excellent performance trying his best to stay out of the whole gangster game. And Sean Penn is almost unrecognisable as an afro wearing cocaine addict Lawyer who just seems hell bent on getting Carlito back into the criminal underworld. There are few action sequences, but the dialog is really solid, so much so that it makes you just want to know more and more about the characters.
Quentin Tarantino the perfectionist of witty dialogue and fast plots will not disappoint you with his 1994 masterpiece Pulp Fiction. You the viewer will be taken on a ride through three different stories that intertwine together around the world of the Crime boss Marcellus Wallace.
From Samuel L Jackson & John Travolta as two hit-man on a job that goes horribly wrong. To Bruce Willis in a fixed boxing match, and a date between Travolta and Uma Thurman the wife of his boss Marcellus. This movie redefined the Gangster action genre and reinvigorated the careers of both John Travolta and Bruce Willis.
Based on a true story, Martin Scorsese’s 1995 classic Casino is about two characters and their chance to rule the desert paradise of Las Vegas. DeNiro plays Ace Rothstein as a lifelong gambler who technically isn’t a mob member, but a money-maker. Along the way, he marries a drug-addicted con-artist Sharon Stone and struggles with his friendship with his lifelong friend Nicky played by Joe Pesci who succeeds at being a complete psychopathic.
What makes this movie different from other films of this genre is that it gives a fascinating perspective on how the mafia used to run Las Vegas. And wow they controlled the flow of money, and the ways they used to get around the law.
Guy Ritchie’s 1998’s highly stylized ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ focuses is on a group of men who invest all their money and lose it in a rigged high-stakes card game to a gangster called Hatchet Harry.
In order to repay Harry, the four have to hatch a risky plan in order to pay back this gangster before the week is up. What follows next is a hilarious series of botched heists and accidental double- crosses. Apart from the fantastic directing soundtrack and acting, what makes this movie great is the fun you have trying to figure out who, if anyone, will be left standing by the end credits.
Jonathan Glazers directorial debut, 2000’s Sexy Beast is one fascinatingly dark and intense movie. The film follows Gal a retired gangster safe-cracker played by Ray Winstone. Who is enjoying a life of pleasure in sunny Spain, until a man from his past, the brutal gangster Don Logan attempts to recruit him for one more job.
Ben Kingsley, portrayal of the sociopath Don Logan is unbelievably intense, intimidating and even funny at times. You can’t help but feel sorry for Ray Winston’s character as he has this crazy man screaming abuse at him. Not only is this movie supported by strong cinematography, chilling characters black humour, and some very strong profanity, ‘Sexy Beast’ works on many levels. But the beauty of this film is its simplicity.
2004’s Layer cake is Matthew Vaughn debut film, starring pre-bond Daniel Craig, who plays a drug dealer in London, who regards himself as a businessman rather than a criminal.
The plot follows Craig’s character who gets two tough assignments from his boss Jimmy Price on the eve of his planned early retirement. There are great supporting roles for such actors as the all important Colm Meaney, who plays Craigs straight talking mentor Gene, as well as his menacing boss Jimmy Price. With sharp dialog and a very original Soundtrack, this is a gangster movie that requires its viewer to think. And although the plot is a little convoluted, that doesn’t take away from the overall entertaining experience.
The story, based upon the true life story of Frank Lucas, 2007’s American Gangster directed by Ridley Scott follows the path of an intellectual gangster who rises to the top of his game but then learns something new in the end.
What makes this move different, is there’s not much mob, it’s mostly Denzel’s character Frank at the top and everyone else trying to get his attention and respect. One of this films biggest strengths is that there is a rich cast of characters, everyone in this film is has depth to them, their motivations made clear while still keeping focus on Denzel’s Frank Lucas, and Russell Crowe’s Richie Roberts.