Stick your Tony Soprano. Forget Avon Barksdale. We’re all about the minor characters here.
The big and little screen has been obsessed with crime syndicates since forever, so naturally there have been many great crime kingpins. But what about the street level thug? The muscle? The minor-level psychopath? We’re looking to pay homage to some of the ultimate small-time crooks from the best crime syndicates in TV and film. Possibly whacked, but never forgotten.
Note: WOW247 does not sanction low-level crime, just fictitious crime.
1. Ralph Cifaretto (The Sopranos)
The Sopranos was doing compelling TV before everybody was. The HBO show was teeming with complex characters and shady Mafia henchmen. Ralph Cifaretto was expertly played by Joe Pantoliano, but his inclusion in this list comes from his complete reinvention of the word ‘whore’. A true masterclass in Italian-American linguistics.
2. ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgibbons (The Departed)
Described as an ‘off-the-boat psychopath’ by Alec Baldwin during the opening scenes, Fitzy’s role in The Departed is mainly to add some celtic colour and fulfil his share of violence in the name of Jack Costigan. The finest moments for Fitzgibbons include the ‘cop-spotting’ scene in the street, his inability to spell and his embarrassment over his body-dumping skills from the scene below. Oh Fitzy, you’re a card.
3. Billy Batts (Goodfellas)
This list is going to be heavy in Scorsese casting – but none are quite as annoying as Billy Batts. Billy’s role in Mafia-masterpiece Goodfellas is solely to aggravate Joe Pesci, which doesn’t sound too difficult of a job. However, the sharp-suited Batts delivers his irritating performance with a master finesse. No more shining, Billy.
4. Leonel & Marco Salamanca (Breaking Bad)
No crime-syndicate list would be complete without a mention of Breaking Bad‘s Salamanca family. Despite tough competition from crazy cousin Tuco and their bell-ringing Uncle Hector – the Salamanca Twins were a truly scary pair of mute assassins, who seemed like an invincible and deadly duo gunning for Walter White.
5. Wee-Bey Brice (The Wire)
David Simon’s television epic The Wire featured a complex network of heroes and villains. Despite the virtually impossible task of picking just one crew member from any of the Baltimore drug gangs, Wee-Bey may just pip the others.
Despite spending only one season on the ‘outside’, Brice remains the gold standard in muscle for the rest of the show – confessing to several murders whilst chowing down on a drive-through burger meal. Also, his obsession with tropical fish is actually quite sweet. So popular is Mr. Brice that he has actually spawned his own ‘reaction gif’ which can be viewed in all its viral glory below.
6. Bruno (Tell No One)
A shameless plug for a brilliant film, Tell No One tells the story of a fugitive doctor (played by French film-icon Alexandre Beck) who is following clues leading to the mystery of his wife’s murder. The local hoodlum Bruno plays a brief but entertaining role in this thriller, with his French hoodlum walk being a particular highlight.
7. McGloin (Gangs Of New York)
Scorsese klaxon. Gangs of New York‘s stand-out performance was clearly Daniel Day-Lewis in the role of moustachio’d meat-handler Bill The Butcher, but there was an assorted array of crooks throughout the film. Gary Lewis’ portrayal of side-swapping Irishman McGloin is a perfect mixture of stupidity and poetic language. Calling DiCaprio’s character a ‘Fidlam Ben’ sounds insulting, though we’re not entirely sure what it means.
8. Barry the Baptist (Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels)
It’s time for a big splodge of realism in this list of ‘small potato’ gangsters. The gruff cockney henchman Barry the Baptist (named for his love of dunking people in large barrels of water) was played by real-life hard man Lenny McLean. McLean was a bareknuckle fighter, bouncer, convicted criminal and the world’s hardest used car salesman.
McLean had a few film roles (including a small part in The Fifth Element) but Guy Ritchie’s first film immortalised him as a sheepskin wearing ‘ard bastard, before his untimely death in 1998.
9. Benny Blanco (Carlito’s Way)
Easily the most detestable character on this list. Benny Blanco (from the Bronx) is the snappily-dressed latino who is looking to claim the New York gangland throne from Carlito, in one of Brian DePalma’s finest films. John Leguizamo’s portrayal of the up-and-coming criminal doesn’t need a mass of screen time to get completely under your skin, instead managing to do so in a few key scenes. Blanco’s thirst for the gangster lifestyle is the perfect contrast to Al Pacino’s desperation to escape it.
10. Harry Waters (In Bruges)
Harry Waters may be slightly more ‘head honcho’ than other characters on this list, but Ralph Fiennes only features through sweary phone conversations for two-thirds of Martin McDonagh’s masterpiece In Bruges. Equal-parts hilarious and scary, Ralph channels his acting skills into a foul-mouthed gangster with obvious anger issues and a fondness for fairytale beauty.
Looking for more gangster film goodness? Check our list of the 9 worst crime movie cliches.
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