Warner Bros. Ultimate Gangster Collection: Contemporary

Warner Bros. Ultimate Gangster Collection: Contemporary

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Mean Streets (1973) – Crude rude and socially unacceptable this early film by director Martin Scorsese who adapted his own story with Mardik Martin follows Harvey Keitel as Charlie a small time hood debt collector in the Little Italy section of New York City. Robert De Niro plays his out-of-control violent friend named Johnny Boy. Also seen in the cast of this low budget feature are brothers David and Robert Carradine. Somehow considered a classic by many it was added to the National Film Registry in 1997.

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The Untouchables (1987) – Directed by Brian De Palma and written by David Mamet (The Verdict (1982)) from the book by Oscar Fraley and Eliot Ness this crime drama is loosely based on real life events in Prohibition Era (1920’s to early 30’s) Chicago when Al Capone was in power and Eliot Ness tried in vain to disrupt his operation. Ness was the leader of the enforcement agents nicknamed The Untouchables. The film earned Sean Connery a Best Supporting Actor Oscar – his only Academy Award nomination – and was also nominated for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration Best Costume Design and Best Music Original Score. Kevin Costner plays Ness Connery his street-wise Irish right-hand man Jim Malone. Also among the titled group of agents are Charles Martin Smith as Oscar Wallace and Andy Garcia as George Stone. Robert De Niro plays Capone as more of a caricature than anything else. Lots of mob violence corruption twists & tricks and several memorable scenes.

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Goodfellas (1990) – – based on a true story by Nicholas Pileggi (“Wiseguy”) this Martin Scorsese-written-(with Pileggi)-and-directed film that glamorizes mob life is “stolen” by Joe Pesci who won the Best Actor in a Supporting Role Oscar for his portrayal of a quick tempered extremely violent gangster named Tommy DeVito. Scorsese was nominated for his direction and adapted screenplay (along with Pileggi); editor Thelma Schoonmaker and the movie – which was added to the National Film Registry in 2000 – also received nominations as did Lorraine Bracco for Supporting Actress (her only nod from the Academy to date). The story is narrated by Ray Liotta’s lead character Henry Hill; Robert De Niro plays the other primary gangster James Conway who mentors the youthful Hill (Christopher Serrone) in a scene that foreshadows the story’s end. Bracco plays Liotta’s wife Karen Hill and Paul Sorvina plays mob boss Paul ‘Paulie’ Cicero.

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Heat (1995) – written directed and produced (with Art Linson) by Michael Mann this crime drama features a highly recognizable cast headlined by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. De Niro plays Neil McCauley the leader of a talented group of thieves that includes an explosives and technical specialist named Chris (Val Kilmer) Michael (Tom Sizemore) and Trejo (Danny Trejo). Jon Voight plays Nate a documents specialist/fixer that finds the jobs for the group which has been together a long time; many had served together in Folsom Prison. The film opens with a heist of a package of bearer bonds from an armored truck which turns into a triple murder scene when a hastily added member to the team – a psychotic hot-head named Waingro played by Kevin Gage – shoots one of the guards unnecessarily. The job of solving the robbery-murders is assigned to L.A.P.D. Lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Pacino) who so obsessively pursues his cases that his life is a mess; his third marriage (to Diana Venora’s character) is collapsing as is his daughter-in-law (played by Natalie Portman). This nearly 3 hour movie is unusual for the genre in that it focuses on the lives and relationships of its primaries more than the action and details of the heists themselves. Amy Brenneman plays a woman that De Niro’s meets which brings him out of his loneliness; Ashley Judd plays Kilmer’s wife. Halfway through the drama there is even an informal meeting – over coffee – between Pacino’s and De Niro’s characters during which they discuss their similarities despite being on different sides of the law. This in-depth view/study of both the criminals and the cops that pursue them is complemented by several supporting characters including Mykelti Williamson Wes Studi Ted Levine Dennis Haysbert William Fichtner Tom Noonan and Hank Azaria.

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The Departed (2006) <— click to my review including links to video clips from this film

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