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Category Archives: Gangster Movie Reviews

Miller’s Crossing (1990)


Miller's Crossing Poster

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

 

The Coen brothers (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen) really started to get noticed after writing and directing Fargo (1996).  The popularity of the indie writers and directors continued to increase with each movie that they made together.  However, when most people look back on the Coen brothers’ career as filmmakers, they usually don’t look further back than FargoMiller’s Crossing seems to fall between the cracks.

05_Flatbed_WEB - FEBRUARY

I was 4 years old when this movie was released, but I watched it for the first time when I was 13 years old.  It was the first Coen brothers’ movie that I had seen and it was the beginning of a new friendship.

Miller’s Crossing is a gangster film about Tom Regan (Gabriel Byrne), a heavy gambler and trusted confidant to two rival mob bosses during the 1920s.  Regan finds himself caught in the middle of a power struggle and all out gangland war while trying to manipulate both sides against each other.

The movie was written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Albert Finney, Jon Polito, John Turturro, Marcia Gay Harden, Steve Buscemi, J.E. Freeman, Mike Starr, Olek Krupa, and Michael Jeter.

Miller's Crossing Finney Tommy Gun

The film is an excellent homage to the James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart gangster movies of old.  The writing and directing is flawless.  The Coen brothers resurrected the 1920s gangster era all the way down to the soda bottles, pocket watches, fedora hats, tommy guns, rotary phones, pinky rings, dirty coppers, smoking jackets, robes, stogies, custom three piece suits, and of course, the model T.  The costumes and set designs were perfect.

Miller's Crossing Polito

The movie has an R rating, but I don’t think that rating would live up to today’s standards.  There is hardly any swearing, and the sex is insinuated.  There is violence, but it is not extremely graphic.  One scene shows a girl topless, but she is wearing nipple tassels.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s frontal side-boob.  I don’t think that alone is enough to garner an R rating.  In other words, the movie is basically PG-13.

Miller's Crossing Byrne Harden

My oldest brother once pointed out to me how the Coen brothers love having big guys sitting behind desks arguing or yelling at people sitting across from them.  He was right.  Watch almost any Coen brothers’ movie and you will get just that.  I think the reason behind this is that usually the dialogue in their movies is so very well-written.  An office setting is a good place to get the point across.  People tend to pay more attention to you if you are behind a podium or desk, especially if you are yelling or arguing a point.  Just look at Barack Obama, or Hitler.  Don’t get me wrong, both men are opposites, but both men could definitely deliver a speech.  As bad as Hitler was, people eat up what he said like it was candy.  They did the same for Obama.  Well thought out dialogue delivered to an audience with explosive vigor while standing behind a podium or desk is enough to get people to listen.  It certainly has worked for the Coen brothers and Miller’s Crossing is a classic example of that.

The Coen brothers were lucky enough early on to be able to get great actors to act in their movies.  This is harder to do for independent filmmakers.  Miller’s Crossing is one of my favorite Gabriel Byrne films.  He gives a slick performance and it must have been contagious because in my opinion, this is Albert Finney’s best movie.  Marcia Gay Harden easily transforms into a 1920s dame and does a likable job.  This is the first movie that I really liked John Turturro in.  Jon Polito gives his best performance channeling the likes of Edward G. Robinson.  Steve Buscemi spits his dialogue like a pro.  It was as if J.E. Freeman was plucked right out of a 1920s gangster movie.  He played his role that well.  These actors have all worn many different hats.  This one fit them all like it was tailor made just for them.

Miller's Crossing Hat

Like fine wine, Miller’s Crossing gets better with age.  If you are a Coen brothers fan already, you will most likely enjoy this movie.  It is one of my favorite Coen brothers’ movies.  It’s a classy gangster film.

I rate this movie a 9 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

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The Boondock Saints (1999)


The Boondock Saints Poster

The Boondock Saints (1999)

I watched The Boondock Saints for the first time way back in 2000.  I had no idea what the film was about before watching it.  All I knew was that I was a broken teenaged kid who had recently lost his older brother.  I was trying to escape into the world of video games and movies.  The movie was supposed to be a distraction, but I couldn’t help but think of my brother throughout the entire film.

The Boondock Saints Reedus Flanery Guns

The movie is about two Irish twin brothers (Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery) living in the boondocks who band together to deliver their own form of vigilante justice on the scum of Boston.  Along the way, they piss off the Russian mob and the FBI.

The film was written and directed by Troy Duffy and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Willem Dafoe, David Della Rocco, Billy Connolly, Carlo Rota, Ron Jeremy, Brian Mahoney, Bob Marley, and Kevin Chapman.

It’s hard not to enjoy a movie about vigilantes cleaning up their city.  When bad guys die, who cares?  It just makes the world a better place.  This film depicts this all very stylishly.  Of course, there is a lot of killing, cussing, and drinking involved, but it’s all in good fun.

The Boondock Saints Connolly Guns

I have watched the movie maybe a dozen times now, and it gets better each time I watch it.  It has a great soundtrack, it’s funny, and you can tell that they had fun filming it.

The film became a cult classic and eventually a sequel followed.  In my opinion, the sequel would have been much more successful if it had not taken a decade before being made.

The Boondock Saints Dafoe

Willem Dafoe’s character in the film is perhaps, the most memorable of his acting career.

The Boondock Saints boosted Norman Reedus’ popularity and he has gone on to become a pretty solid character actor.  He is most known for The Boondock Saints and the popular television series, The Walking Dead.  However, my favorite film that he is in is Deuces Wild (2002).

Most recently, I enjoyed Sean Patrick Flanery’s performance in the final season of my favorite television series, Dexter.

The closeness between the brothers on screen made me really appreciate the performances of Reedus and Flanery.

Troy Duffy put a very unique spin on the storyline and the way the story unfolds is nothing short of awesome.

The Boondock Saints Reedus Flanery Dafoe

Fans of mafia movies should enjoy The Boondock Saints.

I rate this movie a 9 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

The Iceman (2012)


The Iceman Poster

The Iceman (2012)

The Iceman is the chilling true story of one of the most famous contract killers named Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon).  He was known as “The Iceman.”  Kuklinski was believed to have killed at least over 100 people.  He had ties to the mob and he had his family convinced that he was a businessman.

The Iceman Shannon Gun

The movie is directed by Ariel Vromen.

This is another limited release movie with a huge cast that also includes Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, Robert Davi, David Schwimmer, John Ventimiglia, Danny A. Abeckaser, James Franco, and Stephen Dorff.

The Iceman Winona Ryder

Why does a movie like this have such limited release?  The only answer that I can think of is that a film about a real-life serial killer is not a topic that would be popular to the general public.  We all know that is not true with all of the hardcore violence in movies and television these days.  So, the question still remains and I don’t have a real answer for it.

I knew absolutely nothing at all about “The Iceman” before watching The Iceman with the exception that he was a real hit-man at one point in time, and I had seen the trailer for the movie.  What I learned about the guy from the movie was creepy and insane.  It kind of makes me want to read the book that the movie was based off of written by Anthony Bruno called “The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer.”

Michael Shannon has been a wonderful character actor ever since his first film appearance in Groundhog Day (1993).  In more recent years he has successfully made the transition to making movies as an awesome main character.  This trend started when he made Take Shelter (2011).  In The Iceman Shannon is electrifying.  His performance is nothing short of deserving Oscar gold.  He was extremely convincing as a stone-cold murdering lunatic with a love for his family.

The Iceman Evans

Chris Evans was unrecognizable at first, but very entertaining.

Winona Ryder made a big comeback in Black Swan (2010).  In The Iceman, I think that she successfully clinched her comeback into the spotlight.  She brought talent to the movie not seen out of her since the 90s.  Dare I say another person from this film deserves an Oscar?  She should at least be nominated.

The Iceman Liotta Shannon

I would say that 2012 is the year that Ray Liotta died as an actor and then was resurrected.  He looked and acted like death in the unwatchable Killing Them Softly (2012).  He was resurrected in The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) and he became his old bad-tempered self again in The Iceman.

The rest of the cast was there to put all of the pieces of this true serial killer story together.

The Iceman Ryder Shannon

As expected, the movie was brutally violent and loaded with f-bombs.  What I did not expect was the strong presence that each of the main characters had on screen.  They each did an outstanding job in becoming the real people that they were playing and telling their terrible story on film.  Their performances made the movie powerful and worth watching.

Michael Shannon in The Iceman

I think that it is worth tracking down a theatre that is actually playing this movie and checking it out for yourself, that is, if you are a fan of true crime films.

I rate this movie a 9 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

Gangster Squad (2013)


gangster squad cover

Gangster Squad (2013)

With a huge squad of big name actors, Gangster Squad definitely had enough firepower and got the job done right. Although with such a high caliber cast, one would have to try very hard to not make a good film. With Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Giovanni Ribisi, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Robert Patrick, Michael Pena, Anthony Mackie, who could go wrong? The supporting cast is an endless number of recognizable awesome character actors and I couldn’t name them all if I tried. Every other scene I recognized another face. I kept saying; Wow he’s in this too? Or, I like that guy. What else have I seen him in?

gangster squad group

This could just be perhaps, Josh Brolin’s best performance. He was excellent! His role fit him like a glove.

Ryan Gosling was his usual suave and slick self. Once again he was paired with Emma Stone as they were in Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011). They were a great couple again, but her character in my opinion, did not get much of a chance to develop. She was the big love interest, but she really was not in much of the movie.

Gangster Squad is Sean Penn’s best movie since Mystic River (2003). He has quite honestly been pretty disappointing on and off the screen in the last decade. This is a solid comeback movie for him. His character far exceeded my expectations.

Speaking of comeback movies, Nick Nolte surprised us all with a major comeback and Oscar worthy performance in the movie Warrior (2011). Even though his role in Gangster Squad was pretty minor, he reminded us that he can still act.

Giovanni Ribisi never ceases to disappoint and he continued that tradition once again.

Robert Patrick’s film career peaked when he played the T-1000 robot in the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). He has been in many movies and TV shows in the last 22 years since then, but none of his roles have ever lived up to T2. He gives a good supporting role in Gangster Squad.

terminator 2

Michael Pena and Anthony Mackie have both been up and comers for a while. The two of them were both fun additions to the film.

The filmmakers did a remarkable job recreating Hollywood in the 1940s. Everything about the movie seemed real and believable. The clothing, the cars, the buildings and surrounding landscapes, and even the way people talked and acted were all works of art in themselves.

Gangster Squad is one of the best movies that I have seen in the last year. I was only a little disappointed that Emma Stone did not get much of a chance to develop her character. Even the much lesser known Mireille Enos, who was Josh Brolin’s wife in the film, seemed to have a bigger role than Emma Stone. If the film was a little longer and had developed its female characters a little more, I think that it would have been even better. The film was pretty amazing though, and if you have not done so already, you should check it out!

I rate this movie an 8.5 out of 10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

emma stone gangster

Killing Them Softly (2012)


Killing Them Softly (2012)

It was one of the worst movies that I have seen all year and the worst Brad Pitt movie that I have ever seen. It should have been called killing the audience quickly. It was literally that horrible. I almost asked for a refund on my ticket. Thinking about it now, I should have gotten a refund on my ticket. You would have to pay me to watch that movie again.

English: Brad Pitt at the Berlin premiere of I...

English: Brad Pitt at the Berlin premiere of Inglorious Basterds in July 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With as excellent of a cast as this movie had, you would think they could do no wrong. Even if the storyline is bad, the actors will make it better right? Wrong! It was almost as if they tried to make it bad.

Scenes with Brad Pitt were bearable to mediocre. Scenes without Brad Pitt made me almost physically sick.

James Gandolfini was an absolute wreck and Ray Liotta looked like death.

The movie was successful in portraying drug addicts, alcoholics, and overall skuzzy people in a very realistic way. When you weren’t watching people cussing up a storm, drinking themselves to death, getting stoned out of their minds, getting shot in slow motion, or beaten to a bloody pulp, then all they were doing was blabbering back and forth to one another. The majority of the dialogue of the movie was diarrhea of the mouth except for when Brad Pitt or Ray Liotta was talking.

65th Festival De Cannes

65th Festival De Cannes (Photo credit: PanARMENIAN_Photo)

It was almost as if Brad Pitt was in a different movie than everybody else and they edited him in to their train wreck of a film to try to make it better. Instead of actually making it better, it just gave you a couple moments break from being terrible whenever Pitt was in a scene.

Do yourself a favor and stay far away from this movie. Save your time and money by not seeing it. I wish I had.

I rate this movie a 2 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or, run?  Run.

James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini (Photo credit: Wikipedia)