Sunday, January 27, 2013


Last week I went to see the movie, Gangster Squad, despite the somewhat insipid reviews it received (I rarely look to reviews alone knowing that there have been many movies which received great reviews that I didn’t care for).
            Admittedly, much about what I enjoyed about the movie was the setting. The story takes place in the late forties and is based on the fight the police put up in order to keep gangsters (specifically Mickey Cohen) out of Los Angeles.
            Aside from the music and costume of the era, the general feel of the film was old fashioned. My brother introduced me to gangster movies at an early age and this movie had some of the same elements of those films.
            Josh Brolin, the lead, was the perfect, square jawed hero of many a black and white film and Emma Stone was the consummate femme fatale. My favorite, however, was the good guy/bad guy character portrayed by Ryan Gosling. He calls to mind the pretty boy/gruff charm of Bill Holden as well as the dark, bad guy  seductiveness of Robert Mitchum. A dangerous and appealing combination for most women.
            Some reviewers balked at the gratuitous violence of the film but hasn’t that been the nature of all gangster films throughout the years?
            I’ve listed what are believed to be some of the best gangster movies of all time along with some of my own personal favorites (ie. Roaring Twenties is not usually on anyone’s list but is a favorite of mine).

PUBLIC ENEMY – 1931 (the first of 3 James Cagney movies I’ve listed)
LITTLE CAESAR – 1931 (Edward G. Robinson’s breakout role)
ROARING TWENTIES – 1939 (when Cagney begs Humphrey Bogart not to shoot a young soldier, telling him "the kid’s only about 16" Bogart replies, "well, he ain’t gonna live to see 17", then he shoots him.)
WHITE HEAT – 1949 (another Cagney classic)
THE GODFATHER - 1972 – (probably considered the best gangster movie ever, though I think II is arguably somewhat better than the first – don’t bother with III).
SCARFACE – 1983 (put this one on the list because my husband loved it; way, way too violent for my taste)
ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA – 1984 (classic epic starring Robert Di Niro)
THE UNTOUCHABLES – 1987 (Kevin Costner played a great Eliot Ness as a foil to Di Niro’s Capone in this De Palma film )
GOODFELLAS – 1990 – (One of my favorites. Memorable for Ray Liotta’s portrayal of Henry Hill, as well as  Joe Pesci’s portrayal of the perfect sociopath "you laughin’ at me?")
DONNIE BRASCO – 1997 – (great performance by Johnny Depp)
THE DEPARTED – 2006 – (wonderful Scorsese ensemble including Leonardo DeCaprio, Jack Nicholson, and Matt Damon)

(Honorable mention: Road to Perdition, Casino, MillersCrossing, Mean Streets, Carlito’s  Way, Pulp Fiction, Bugsy)

Thanks for reading Rhodes Less Traveled,  Vivian