Tuesday, January 27, 2009

5-4-T: Overrated Gangster Movies

It sometimes seems that nothing can warm the heart of the moviegoing public more than a gangster with a conscience. A well-crafted story with this theme will almost always garner box office success, if not critical acclaim. In today's Five For Tuesday, we look at gangster films that have been overly-lauded. Some of these are actually good, just not deserving of the fawning attention they tend to receive. NOTE - some spoilers here.

5) The Sting
Though it starts off with a rather serious tone (what's more serious than a murder?), The Sting takes a steady descent into cheekiness as it progresses. Whatever tension and seriousness they try to build goes away when everything comes off as a big joke. That's not to say the joke isn't a good one, but is it 7 Oscars and 94th movie of all time good? Watch it once and that will be enough for you. Sure, it's fun, and Robert Shaw's performance as the cranky, buffoonish opposition is kind of a trip, but can you imagine Ocean's Eleven winning best picture?

4) Scarface/Carlito's Way/The Untouchables
Brian DePalma gets a triple-entry here for repeatedly trashing promising screenplays with his sledgehammer approach to filmmaking. Each of these films feature annoyingly superfluous slow-motion scenes and various other moments when DePalma announces his presence at the expense of the story. Between the baby carriage scene in the Untouchables (yes, I realize it's a Battleship Potemkin reference - doesn't mean it belongs in the movie), Tony Montana's bizarre freakout moments whenever another man is in the same room as his sister, and the ridiculous Joe Cocker moment in Carlito's Way, we can only lament that the movie studios didn't hire someone more competent.

3) The French Connection
There is that one really kick-ass car chase. And that alone makes this picture worth seeing. Unfortunately, that alone is the only reason to see this picture. Hackman has a few over the top sequences that somehow earned him the Oscar for Best Actor, and the movie also garnered Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay. But aside from there not being much of a story, the majority of this film is just people walking around the city.

2) The Road to Perdition
I cannot accurately describe the contempt I had for this movie upon watching it. To be sure, it is great looking. The cinematography is amazing and deservedly won the Oscar. But aside from that, there is so much to hate about this movie. A story that is overtly violent for the sake of the violence, yet feels as though it was made up as the movie was filmed eventually leads to an absolutely preposterous climax. Basically, this film comes off as a ripoff of the Coen Brothers' Miller's Crossing, but without the interesting characters, dialogue, story, and point. Yet it has a 7.8 on IMDb. The awful ending is made all the worse by the most astonishingly bad superfluous voiceover ever recorded. If you can stomach it, watch the finish here.

1) The Usual Suspects
Don't get me wrong. There is a lot to like about this movie, provided you don't mind the fact that none of it actually happened. That's right, the "surprise" ending is that everything you just spent two hours watching didn't exist. Yet, the IMDb voters have seen fit to name this non-story the 21st greatest movie of all time! Seriously, if you knew the film ended like this, you wouldn't have gone to see it, right? Basically, I found myself in agreement with Roger Ebert before I saw his review. And if that's not enough, how about: "Starring Stephen Baldwin."


Josh said...

Totally agree with your assessment of The Road to Perdition, especially the point about being a poor man's Miller's Crossing, which would be near the top of the list of most undervalued gangster movies. Maybe an idea for next week's 5-4-T...?

David K Roberts said...

I actually just saw Scarface for the first time a couple weeks back. Irefused to see it for so long because it is so hyped and was sick of seeing kids where Scarface shirts. Well I though the movie to be honest was garbage for the most part. The Georgio Moroder soundtrack is lame, the characters are silly, and that MONTAGE!


I can see what people can like about it... but love it? I don;t think so.

David K Roberts said...

yes... I know I put a ton of spelling errors in my previous comment.... I am just so passionate about my feelings towards Scarface.

Kozy said...

This is a solid list for sure. According to the imdb, Sister Act is considered a gangster film, so perhaps that is your only glaring omission :-)

Reed said...

Could you explain for me who exactly is overrating Sister Act? I need to know because I'd like to punch them in the Whoopi cushion.