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GREAT MOB MOVIES

- 16 July 2009, 11:07

By

Sonny Girard

If I asked you what the great mob movies are, I’m sure most would run off the Godfather films (NO, NOT III), Goodfellas, maybe Casino too.  But there are a number of mob genre films around that have not been as widely seen, and really do have a place in a legitimate top ten.  Take it from me, someone who’s lived the mob life for decades, that if you like mob films, you’ll love these:

1)    Once Upon a Time in America – Probably the best mob movie outside of Godfathers I & II, about Jewish mobsters growing up on the Lower East Side of New York, and starring Robert DiNiro and James Woods.  It is a period look at mobdom that spans the time of Prohibition through a couple of more decades.  Sergio Leone created this masterpiece, only to have it arbitrarily edited down by Fox to allow more showings.  Eventually, he bought back the negative from the studio, restored the footage cut, and released it in its entirety as a video.  It is now considered a classic.

2)    Mean Streets - Martin Scorsese’s first mob film, also starring a very young DiNiro, portrays the gritty, not too glamorous, day to day life of mobster wannabes in Little Italy, New York.  It is not as refined as Scorsese’s later work, but is about as authentic as any film you’ll see about how it was being a young man growing up in the underworld in the Sixties.

3)    Flight of the Innocent – This Italian film (subtitled) is a down to earth portrayal of two Calabrian N’drangheta families in a life and death dispute.  A young boy sees his family murdered by another over a kidnapping plot’s ransom money and barely escapes with his life.  His travels from city to city to find relatives who are part of his family’s cosca with the money as he is being pursued by the killers illustrates the breadth of Italian criminal organizations like the aforementioned N’drangheta, Napolitano Camorra, Sicilian Mafia, and Pugliese Sacre Corona Unita.  The cinematic beauty is in how much of the film is told with a camera without accompanying dialogue.  It is a law of film that a page of screenplay translates to a minute of screen time.  Flight of the Innocent dispels that theory, with a film that must have had a substantially shorter script.  In Italian with English subtitles.

4)    Johnny Stecchino (Johnny Toothpick) – Not all mob theme movies have to be serious or bloody.  One of the funniest movies of any genre is Roberto Benigni’s film about a woman who finds a look alike for her mobster turned informant, Johnny Stecchino, who, true to his name, always has a toothpick hanging out between his lips.  She brings the unaware look alike to Sicily to have him killed so that no one will look for her beloved Johnny when they run away.  Besides the fantastic perfomances by the cast, especially Benigni, the writing is amazingly funny.  After Benigni’s stumblebum character arrives in Sicily, he is always talking to people who are talking about something else, yet they always make sense to each other.  I’ve watched this film a number of times, and always found something new to laugh at.  In Italian with English subtitles.

I’ve seen “Gomorrah,” the highly hyped film about the Neapolitan Camorra.  For all its awards, I think the first two Godfathers, Casino, Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco, and any of the four listed here beat it, though it is closer to “Mean Streets” in it’s gritty portrayal of the Neapolitan mob’s underbelly.

Sonny Girard is a lifelong mob insider who wrote his first novel in federal prison while serving a seven year R.I.C.O. sentence, and is now a recognized expert on organized crime.  He has appeared as such on shows like the O’Reilly Factor, Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, WABC Nightline, and RAI-TV in Italy.

Read more articles by Sonny Girard, sample his three published novels for free, and more at www.SonnysMobCafe.com


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