California Literary Review

100 Greatest Gangster Films

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Angels With Dirty Faces, #46

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December 13th, 2012

Some movies hold up well over time. This one doesn’t. We wanted to like Angels with Dirty Faces as much as we did the first time we saw it. But it just wasn’t happening. Maybe some movies play better in our memories than they do on DVD. It is still worth watching, however, mostly due to the acting.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Dinner Rush, #47

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December 6th, 2012

But no movie in the genre portrays food as lovingly as Dinner Rush, a story about a New York City restaurateur/bookmaker trying to protect his properties against rival gangsters. In truth, the film focuses more on the cuisine than the crimes. But don’t underestimate it; Dinner Rush is a solid mob movie.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Get Carter, #48

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November 29th, 2012

After launching his career with star turns in Alfie, The Ipcress File and Funeral in Berlin, Michael Caine wanted to play a bad guy. In writer/director Mike Hodges’ Get Carter, he got to play one of the baddest.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: The Big Heat, #49

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November 22nd, 2012

Bannion is a tough-talking homicide detective investigating the suicide of another cop. He questions the dead man’s widow, who makes up a phony story of how her husband shot himself because he had been suffering from an undiagnosed illness. Her tale sounds fishy.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Midnight Run, #50

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November 15th, 2012

This is The Odd Couple on the run from the mob. And it works primarily—if not entirely—because of the pairing of Robert De Niro, as bounty hunter Jack Walsh, and Charles Grodin, as the nerdy accountant Jonathan “the Duke” Mardukas.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Mesrine: Killer Instinct, Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 — #51

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November 8th, 2012

Jacques Mesrine was one of the most notorious criminals in France during the 1960s and 1970s. Part John Dillinger, part John Gotti, the egotistical bank robber, kidnapper and escape artist became a hero in the French tabloids and in the working class slums of cities like Paris and Marseilles despite his penchant for violence and cruelty.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: High Sierra, #52

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November 1st, 2012

Before High Sierra, Hollywood’s gangsters were not just black-and-white on celluloid; they were equally definitive in their morality—or, rather, immorality. There was nothing sympathetic about Paul Muni as Tony Camonte in Scarface and no doubt where James Cagney’s Tom Powers stood in The Public Enemy. This movie, a star vehicle for Humphrey Bogart, helped change all that.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Snatch, #53

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October 25th, 2012

This is the second of Guy Ritchie’s madcap mob capers. And Brad Pitt’s performance as Mickey O’Neil, the Irish gypsy, is the biggest reason for watching it.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: The Killing, #54

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October 18th, 2012

There are two great reasons to see The Killing, Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 caper film about a botched racetrack heist. First off, the movie served as inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. And second, The Killing stands up as a solid work on its own.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Animal Kingdom, #55

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October 11th, 2012

We place Jacki Weaver, as Grandma Smurf, on the Mount Rushmore of female movie gangsters, along with Faye Dunaway (Bonnie and Clyde), Helen Mirren (The Long Good Friday) and Gena Rowlands (Gloria). Except that Weaver gets to occupy the highest point of the peak.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Drunken Angel, #56

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October 4th, 2012

This one, we know, is a tough sell. Drunken Angel is a 60-plus-year-old, black-and-white, subtitled Japanese movie with virtually no action and not a single gun shot. It focuses on the mercurial relationship between a cranky, alcoholic doctor and a brazen young yakuza dying of tuberculosis.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Kill the Irishman, #57

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September 27th, 2012

Greene’s story is told in the excellent 2011 biopic, Kill the Irishman, which covers his rise from lugging boxes as a stevedore to running a corrupt union to working as a mob enforcer to standing up to the new Mafia boss—Scalish’s replacement—looking to grab a percentage of Greene’s operation. There’s a lot packed into two hours.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Jackie Brown, #58

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September 20th, 2012

The cast is major league. Pam Grier reestablished her career playing the title character and Robert Forster got an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Max Cherry, the soft-spoken and world-weary bail bondsman. But it is Samuel L. Jackson, over-the-top as the gunrunner and principal bad guy Ordell Robbie, who steals this picture.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Heat, #59

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September 13th, 2012

This is an organized crime movie in the literal sense of that term. It’s not about the mob, but about a gang of well-organized professional thieves. They know their business and work it very well. They, in turn, are tracked by a group of police detectives who also take their work very seriously.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Bugsy, #60

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September 6th, 2012

Back home on the East Coast, he tells Lansky, “What do people always fantasize about? Sex, romance, money, adventure. I am building a monument to all of them.”

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