“I don’t feel I have to wipe out everybody, Tom. Just my enemies.”
---Michael Corleone in The Godfather: Part II, written by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo.
Crime films blasted their way onto the silver screen in the 1910s, and have been a regular fixture of world cinema ever since. Inherently dramatic, films of the crime/gangster genre are violent by nature, and commonly based on real-life criminals and events. In crime films, the bad guy is often the dominant character. To make him likeable, our hero is usually a one-time underdog who rose from unlikely circumstances to become a figure of respect and power. Beneath their façade of cruelty is often a softer soul who is capable of great kindness and bouts of class; but don’t piss them off, or their murderous nature will be quickly revealed. The crime protagonist is usually more than just a part of the story; he or she IS the story, and they’re not gonna let you forget it!
At the end of Act One, the criminal mastermind usually realizes he’s gonna have to start to do things differently; either the cops have gotten too smart, his business has grown too large, or his competitors have made a move into his territory. At midpoint this anti-hero on top of the world, and success seems inevitable. By the end of Act Two, they’re still in control, but their pesky antagonist must now be dealt with directly. It is the rare crime gangster movie that does not see it’s crime lord die in a blaze of violent glory in the Act Three climax, but some of the best films have found ways to keep their heroes breathing. The good life must always comes with a price, however, so if it’s not the death of the boss himself that caps your crime script--it’s probably that of those nearest and dearest.
Crime/Gangster movies to watch: The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II, The Usual Suspects, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, The Big Sleep, Reservoir Dogs, Dog Day Afternoon
Genre Hybrids: (Gangster Drama) On The Waterfront, (Road Movie Crime) Bonnie and Clyde, (Crime Drama) Boyz ‘N the Hood, (Crime Thriller) Dial “M” for Murder (1954)