The Love Affair With The Bad Guy - Gangster Movies
When you were a kid, did you ever watch these old black and white gangster movies with the sharp suits and the sharper dialogue? If so, who did you cheer for - the clean cut good guy, or the gangster with the cutting one-liners and the complete lack of respect for authority? If it was the latter, don't worry - you're not alone, and when you look at the gangster movie genre in more detail, you can begin to understand why. For instance, if you've ever seen the two films that are hailed as the genre's defining moments, Little Caesar and Public Enemy, you probably remember distinct moments in the films, as opposed to the gangster's in them receiving justice for their deeds. For example, famous movie gangster Edward G Robinson is probably better remembered in Little Caesar for the luxurious lifestyle he had, as opposed to any comeuppance he received. The same can be said of James Cagney in Public Enemy, who is so enamoured by a little girl's smile that he brakes into a little two-step jig. This love for gangsters as opposed to law enforcers has carried over into more modern examples of the genre, and has seen the typical idea of what a gangster is challenged by the actors and scripts of these newer films. Take a look at the legendary Al Pacino - as Michael Corleone in the much-loved Godfather movies, he played the reluctant mafiosi boss who places his family over his own choices.
However, in the classic Scarface, he was the psychotic Tony Montana who revelled in causing as much damage as possible on his rise to the top. Two very different characters, yet both garnered the love of audiences worldwide. It's not only outside the movies that this love of the lawbreaking gangsters makes itself known. One of the biggest successes of the last few years has been the TV show The Sopranos, a story about a modern crime family who'll happily eulogise quotes from films like The Godfather and Goodfellas. This is also prevalent in the high school movie Brick, which is almost a homage to Miller's crossing with its look and dialect.
Perhaps it's because gangster movies represent the American Dream, albeit in a setting that goes against the law, that sees gangsters enjoy such a rapport with the public. After all, at their heart, they're the story of a nobody rising up to become a somebody, and we all want to relate to that. However, one thing that should be remembered in all this love for the gangster movie is that the so-called "heroes" are still law-breaking citizens, and as such deserve to be punished for their wrong-doings. Although the life might seem glamorous, it will catch up with them as it always does, and by festering any kind of love for a gangster, you'll soon feel as morally shot down as the persona up on-screen.