Entries tagged with “gangster movies”.


The vice of gambling inspired quite a number of literary and cinematographic works, starting maybe with Dostoevsky’s novel which shares the name with the films that inspired it until the almost masterpiece movie “House of Games” written and directed by . “The Gambler” directed by  is not an adaptation of the great Russian writer’s short novel but rather a remake of a 1974 film that featured in the lead role. There are enough reasons to watch this 2014 version of the story with in the lead role, even if you have seen or not the older film.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2039393

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2039393

 

The film history does not lack heroes (or anti-heroes) who lead a more than honorable life and/or have a respected profession at day, while spending their nights in vices of all sorts. Most of the characters of this kind are women, but there are also men like Jim Bennett, a decent and passionate professor of literature and novel writer who spends his free time in gambling crazily money that he does not have, borrowing from all possible bad guys, ruining the trust of his mother and of his girlfriend. At some point in time the viewers ask themselves whether he is playing a survival or a suicidal game, as he invites trouble and seems immune to the any danger or concern as soon as he walks the door of a gambling place. The response is in the character of gamblers which escapes reason (there are a few lines that I suspect were borrowed from Dostoevsky). His chance to survive depends upon getting rid of the addiction.

 

(video source Movieclips Trailers)

 

‘s “The Gambler” is written more like an action movie than as a character study. At some point in time the hero borrows money from three different mob groups, and uses the cash to cheat each other in order to try to save his skin. The influence of the gangsters movies of the 70s and 80s is visible, with reverences to  or Sidney Lumet. The atmosphere, the darkness and even the humor are present in the right doses. While the action is quite satisfying the quality of the film derives mostly from the actor work of who succeeds in this film to deliver one of the best roles in his career, with an intense rendition of the combination of the emptiness and despair of the intelligent hero who is aware about the falling spiral path of his life, but has a hard time fighting to prevent it. Supporting roles are played by fine actors like , , and (his last movie!). I liked less the very final which may be a little to conventional cinema relative to the rest of the film, but the overall impression is better than expected.

 

Good movies are timeless. Or they feel so. Sometimes this is because their subject is universal and it does not really matter what epoch the action is set in. In some other cases the quality of the story and of the acting make the period irrelevant. A good example is ‘Gloria‘, a film made in 1980 by director (and actor) about whom I knew very little before seeing this film. And yet, ‘Gloria‘ is a gangster movies that keeps the interest of viewers all over the two hours of screen time and looks new and fresh, despite having been filmed almost 40 years ago.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080798/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080798/

 

The subject of the film will look familiar, as later movies like ‘s ‘Léon’ have dealt with the theme of gangsters involved folks meeting and befriending kids, and melting to humanity in the course of the story. ‘Gloria‘ however included from start a big twist. The lead adult hero is a woman, the ex-girlfriend of one of the mob chiefs, who witnesses the murder of the family of a six years old kid (her neighbor) who has nobody left to care about him and no place to go. Taking him under her protection means placing her in conflict with the mob (as the kid holds an accounting book with compromising mafia secrets) and with the law (she is believed to have kidnapped the kid). What follows is a few days of running from everybody and fighting for survival in the New York of 1980.

 

(video source subtitles archive)

 

The New York in the film is a city that looks so familiar: the streets (much dirtier and more dangerous than today), the buildings (combining modern and decrepit), the skyline (with the painful silhouettes of the twin towers), the people who look so much the same as the diverse human landscape of the big city we know. The only major thing that seems to have changed is the value of the dollar. It may be as difficult as 40 years ago to change a 100 dollars bill, but two dollars fifty cents would not be sufficient nowadays for any room in a city hotel, probably not even for a tip in any city hotel. The other ingredient that makes the film interesting is the excellent acting performance of who partners with the young , a kid actor who did not grow into an adult actor. She is vulnerable as a woman who does not like kids (her cat is collateral damage in the first minutes of the film) and has a troubled past, yet strong as she knows the language and manners of the crime world and how to survive it. The ending is a little disappointing, unexpectedly conventional for such a film that is so non-conventional from many points of view, but this does not spoil too much the good impression left by this fresh classic.

The season for screening films with ambitions for Academy Awards must have started. Black Mass is directed by – a relative newcomer (this is only his third film) but a rising star among directors at Hollywood if we are to judge the impressing cast he succeeds to enroll – better and better and certainly more expensive from movie to movie. It seems to meet at least a few conditions to enter the competition for Academy nominations. It stars in a role we barely recognize him which may well get him into the Final 5. It tells a story that captured at some point in time the interest and imagination of big audiences, and it deals with a Big American character. The fact that this character is a despicable gangster, who was in control of one of the lead Mafia gangs (‘the Irish one’) in Boston in the 80s and early 90s and was responsible for numerous murders and organized crime felonies may eventually matter when the jury will debate. Or maybe not. Until then, let us take our places in the theaters or download from the Internet and watch the movies.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1355683/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1355683/

 

James ‘Whitey’ Bulger now serving a couple of life sentences is the kind of anti-hero America is fascinated with. The story starts in 1975, when Bulger is enrolled as an informant by the FBI – a status which together with the family ties (his brother played by Benedict Cumberbatch was a state senator) ensured him two decades of immunity and the almost total dominance on the crime industries in the Boston area after eliminating (with the help of the police and justice system) the Italian rival gangs. The story on screen mentions nothing about the still not elucidated episode of the murder of the ”Lady of the Dunes” that took place a year before, but does include the death of Bulger’s only child that actually took place in 1973. From this episode we may or maybe are supposed to understand the motivations of his violence and lack of respect for law or human life? Quite thin for an explanation in my opinion. Despite Depp’s fantastic acting the man behind the crimes remains an enigma.

 

(video source Movieclips Trailers)

 

The rest is a ‘true crime’ story (the film is inspired by a true crime book) with the relations between the boss and his acolytes, the treasons and executions of the traitors, the have-heard-it-already rants about the Mafia honor code, with corrupt cops and victimized girlfriends, and with a twist towards Bulger’s support for Irish nationalism and terror movements, which was part of the reasons that led to his eventual fall. It started quite confusing to my taste, it improved as the story grew and the relation between characters became more clear (and the number of characters decreased :-) ) but it did not reach any of the peaks of the genre like in Scorsese’s films or in Mystic River. Depp’s performance is hypnotic, I will try a metaphor and say that he brings death to his hero on screen. Cumberbatch on the other hand will not get another Academy nomination for his role here. I know nothing at this point about the other candidates, but in an average to weak year I would bet for a couple of awards.