Gangster films are always going to be intriguing because, let’s face it, it’s cool to see how the other side live.
We’re never going to rob a bank or join the Mob, so watching somebody else do it, through the medium of film, is thrilling. A little bit disturbing as a concept maybe, but great.
With Johnny Depp’s new film Black Mass, based on the exploits of real-life Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger, out this week, anyone interested in gangster thrillers will no doubt be on the edge of their seats.
So to put you on until then, take a look at some of these cracking gangster films on Netflix for all your vicarious criminal needs.
A Bronx Tale
This one’s something of a classic. Concerning a teenager who gets taken under the wing of a local Mafia man, A Bronx Tale is a coming-of-age movie set against the searing backdrop of New York City in the ’60s.
We see our protagonist grow up, go to school, fall in love, and attempt to make his own mind up on the issues that surround him. There’s shades of Scorsese – perhaps not surprising given that Robert De Niro directed as well as appearing in the cast – and even Romeo & Juliet too. Chazz Palminteri, who steals the show as mobster Sonny, wrote the screenplay based on his own early life and experiences. As such, there’s both authenticity and charm to the sometimes violent proceedings.
Everyone knows about Snatch by now, surely? It’s Brad Pitt’s finest hour. He plays witty, wiley, wonderful traveller Mickey. Also in the mic are: Benicio Del Toro as Freddy Four Fingers (a heavy drinking, womanising gambler), Vinnie Jones as Bullet-Tooth Tony (he shoots a lot of people), Jason Statham as Turkish (he just tries to stay out of trouble) and Alan Ford as Brick Top (he’s the scary gaffer who delivers THAT speech about pigs).
The plot follows each of these guys’ stories, and their pursuit of a lost cache of diamonds, which leads to hilarious, shocking and brutal happenings, with a couple of bare-knuckle fights thrown in for good measure. Cracking soundtrack too.
Rarely does Al Pacino play a supporting role, which should tell you instantly that this film is worth your time. Johnny Depp plays the title character, and serves as a new recruit to the American Mafia, constantly under the guidance of Lefty (Pacino).
Only Donnie is actually an FBI agent charged with infiltrating the mob, and throughout the course of the movie, the ‘will he get caught’ line is frequently danced over. Ultimately, we’re exposed to the true nature of undercover policing, and the toll it takes on an officer’s life, while Pacino makes for an unconventionally sympathetic and sad Mafia crook.
Set during Prohibition, Tom Reagan desperately attempts to navigate the world of criminal politics unscathed. Of course, that’s easier said that done, especially when you’re sleeping with your boss’s squeeze.
It’s more than your stereotypical gangster flick – being from the Coen Brothers, of course it is – and explores, in depth, its protagonist as a real complex person, as opposed to the invincible intimidation machine that they are usually shown as. It’s about trust, betrayal, and the complications that arise from playing a dangerous game while keeping your friends close – and your enemies closer.
What’s the motivating factor for a cop surrounded by endless crime? Revenge, obviously. At least it is in Hard Boiled, when Officer Tequila Yuen’s partner is brutally gunned down during an attempted arrest.
Sure, you’ve heard it all before, but we guarantee that despite the many movies you’ve seen where the cop’s partner is killed, you’ll genuinely feel sorry for Tequila. On top of the emotional turmoil, the gun-fight sequences are close to epic, with plenty of stunt action and bullet dodging. It’s like Lethal Weapon, but better.
Not to be confused with the 2012 remake, Pusher stars Kim Bodnia as Frank and Mads Mikkelsen as his hedonistic friend Tonny, two small-time drug dealers on the streets of Copenhagen. Complications to their operation arise from Frank’s lack of money, a police raid and a supplier demanding money, however, and they are forced to scramble around for any bit of cash they can find. The rule is simple: pay off their debts, or suffer the consequences.
Frank is an incredible character, both detestable and, at times, oddly endearing. Neither hero nor villain, it’s exciting to watch Frank frantically trying to decide his next move, while ever present forces close in. It’s also worth noting that this is the debut feature of Nicolas Winding Refn, who would later direct Drive.
It’s nice to see Daniel Craig in something else, isn’t it? Despite being renowned for his James Bond budgie smugglers, Craig first made his mark on the big screen as a wanna-be gangster in Layer Cake, dabbling on the other side of the law.
It’s all about Craig’s atypically posh crook battling to maintain his composure – and life – when the cosy narcotics enterprise he thought he’d got going for himself begins to crumble around him through no fault of his own. Will he sink, or swim? Regardless, it’s fascinating to see him charm, scheme and squirm.