Toby Chew? Toby Wong? Movies w/ gangsters?
December 4, 2009 1:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm on a gangster movie binge. Reservoir Dogs, Boondock Saints, RocknRolla (basically all of Guy Ritchie's stuff). I need more in this vein to fulfil my craving for cool men doing violence in innovative ways. I'd like recommendations for modern movies preferably without the Italian mafia. Bonus points for United Kingdom focused films.
posted by beautifulcheese to Media & Arts (66 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
American Gangster was very good.
posted by alligatorman at 1:47 PM on December 4, 2009

In Bruges.
posted by veedubya at 1:48 PM on December 4, 2009 [6 favorites]

You probably already know about Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch then.
posted by procrastination at 1:48 PM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Layer Cake is the best UK gangster flick.
posted by Babblesort at 1:49 PM on December 4, 2009 [11 favorites]

Layer Cake
posted by dfriedman at 1:50 PM on December 4, 2009

Not sure when "Modern" began. Tarantino inspired Guy Ritchie, among others. You've probably already seen "Layer Cake" and "Sexy Beast."

Earlier (1980s):
Mona Lisa ('88): an unrequited love story, of sorts, set in Soho.
The Long Good Friday ('82): another Bob Hoskins film. He ain't cool, but canny.

Michael Caine "Get Carter," 1970. Gritty as a kitchen-sink drama, but Caine is cool.
posted by doncoyote at 1:52 PM on December 4, 2009

Layer Cake is great, and definitely under the radar.
posted by radioamy at 1:53 PM on December 4, 2009

Not UK, but Seijun Suzuki did a slew of excellent gangster movies. Tokyo Drifter, Branded to Kill, and Youth of the Beast are all spectacular.

Also, Battles without Honor and Humanity is the first movie in an epic series on the rise of Japanese mobs after WWII.
posted by clockwork at 1:53 PM on December 4, 2009

Judging by the answers so far, Layer Cake maybe isn't so much under the radar.
posted by Babblesort at 1:54 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

For this type of movie played for outrageous comedy, try Shoot 'Em Up.
posted by Paragon at 1:56 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's not UK based...and it's not what I'd call a typical "gangster movie"...but City of God is an excellent film that explores the seedy underbelly of Rio de Janeiro (crime, drugs, etc.). Excellent soundtrack too. Enjoy!
posted by arm426 at 1:56 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

You might like In Bruges, although it's obviously on the comic side.

There's also Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
posted by bookgirl18 at 1:58 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Krays
posted by AlliKat75 at 1:58 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sexy Beast.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:59 PM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Try the Pusher Trilogy.
posted by whiskeyspider at 2:01 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: UK -

The Long Good Friday
The Krays
Layer Cake
The Squeeze
Essex Boys
Love, Honour and Obey
The Bank Job
Dead Man Running
Gangster no.1
Sexy Beast
Get Carter
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
posted by fire&wings at 2:02 PM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Two Hands
posted by pompomtom at 2:05 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Gangster No. 1 was good, same director also did Lucky Number Slevin which was ok. It's been awhile but I remember enjoying The Krays too.
posted by shucksitsjeremy at 2:07 PM on December 4, 2009

The Limey
posted by exois at 2:07 PM on December 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

The Business
posted by imaswinger at 2:13 PM on December 4, 2009

I need more in this vein to fulfil my craving for cool men doing violence in innovative ways.

Most of the above comments have the good ones from the UK covered.

The ones I can think of that are closest to the ones you listed are Smokin' Aces, Lucky Number Slevin, and Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead, but none of those are all that great in my opinion. If period gangster films are okay, Miller's Crossing is a good one.

City of God, as mentioned above, is also good, but it has a non-violent coming of age story mixed in and isn't a total bloodbath.

You would probably like the whole Vengeance Trilogy as well, if Japanese gangster films sound at all appealing, because they are all about cool guys (and girls) doing violence in innovative ways.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:18 PM on December 4, 2009

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead and Carlito's Way are both good for the retired gangster wreaks havoc angle.
posted by ODiV at 2:24 PM on December 4, 2009

Smokin Aces. Revolver is another of Guy Ritchie's movies I haven't seen mentioned yet.
posted by sophist at 2:25 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'll Nth recommend Layer Cake. Such a great movie.
posted by smallerdemon at 2:32 PM on December 4, 2009

Tekkon Kinkreet
posted by hermitosis at 2:44 PM on December 4, 2009

Best answer: Get Carter has period accouterments like giant lapeled suits and fashionable man-mullets and mini-miniskirts, but if your only experience of Michael Caine has been as a kindly Alfred-type figure, oh my God. Definitely gangster, definitely violent, so cool your teeth will hurt.
posted by joyceanmachine at 2:46 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

From my US perspective, it is hard to beat Goodfellas, Casino, Scarface (very gory), Pulp Fiction, Mean Streets, The Departed, Get Shorty, State of Grace and The Untouchables.
posted by bearwife at 2:49 PM on December 4, 2009

A great Scorcese film that won 4 Oscars, The Departed.
posted by netbros at 2:49 PM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The Italian Job. (The job is Italian, but the criminals are British.)

Category:British crime films on Wikipedia may also be of interest.
posted by tellumo at 2:50 PM on December 4, 2009

Another vote here for The Long Good Friday. Exceptional. Violent, but with an absolutely haunting wordless closing scene. It'll stay with me forever. Bob Hoskins... whoo!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 2:56 PM on December 4, 2009

It is not UK focused, but for this genre, I would have to say that Eastern Promises is one of the better films.
posted by skewedoracle at 2:59 PM on December 4, 2009

Not British but A Bittersweet Life is a terrific gangster film.
posted by cazoo at 3:02 PM on December 4, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the list so far. I am seeing a few I really enjoyed so I know you are all on the right track.

I am open to non UK recs and the non US ones sound good. I would be fine with any US ones but even the ones mentioned here tend to lean Italian which I find a played out aspect of the genre.
posted by beautifulcheese at 3:12 PM on December 4, 2009

Also not British is Infernal Affairs, the original to Scorsese's remake, The Departed, IMHO a better film. Yes, even better than Scorsese!
posted by cazoo at 3:13 PM on December 4, 2009

Best answer: The Hit by Stephen Frears is a different kind of British gangster film with a great performance by a very young Tim Roth in a supporting part.

(Sorry for flooding.)
posted by cazoo at 3:21 PM on December 4, 2009

Really like the previously mentioned Goodfellas (sorry, Italian Mafia), Snatch and Miller's Crossing.

Miller's Crossing has an ambush scene with a cigar, a machine gun and a guy in his pajamas which every adult male should be required to see.

The Professional, from 1994, is relatively modern. It has "cool men doing violence in innovative ways."
posted by SantosLHalper at 3:24 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

aw, everyone has named all my favorites so here's a uber-cool French one: Bob le flambeur (1956). You really can't go wrong with Melville.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:45 PM on December 4, 2009

Eastern Promises is indeed excellent, although it's Russian vory v zakone gangsters in London as opposed to UK gangland types. You could also try Cronenberg's previous A History of Violence.

Also, for emphasis, watch the Infernal Affairs trilogy before you watch The Departed. Actually, just don't watch The Departed at all.
posted by permafrost at 3:50 PM on December 4, 2009

Agreeing with cazoo: The Hong Kong original (Infernal Affairs) was better than The Departed. If you are going to watch only one, make it the original.
posted by chairface at 3:50 PM on December 4, 2009

Speaking of Layer Cake, Occasional, Strong is another Daniel Craig gangster film. Not great, but it has a few moments.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 4:13 PM on December 4, 2009

Now that we've crossed the International Date Line, I'll put in a plug for Kung Fu Hustle. It has the prerequisite cool men doing violence in innovative ways.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:52 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

This might be slightly different from what you mention, but there are a lot of great entries which have aired on English TV in the genre of gritty cop drama. The greatest of all these - without doubt - is the classic 70's show The Sweeney. (That's Cockney rhyme-slang, via "Sweeney Todd," for "The Flying Squad.") It starred John Thaw as that quintessential old archetype, a cop who doesn't give a fuck what laws he has to break to haul in the guilty. Really good, brutal, riveting stuff – here's a good sample scene.

Aside from that, Philip Glennister (who was on another set of BritCop TV shows you might like, Life On Mars and its sequel Ashes To Ashes) was in a thing a year or two ago called Tu£sday. The plot involves three sets of criminals who all decide to rob a bank on the same day; while like a lot of the movies in this genre it's very derivative it can be fun.

Lastly, you really, really should see The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three – not that new stuff, nor the 1998 version, but the classic 1974 one. It's really a fantastic movie; it's got Walter Matthau in a great, sardonic turn as a New York Transit Authority officer who has to deal with a subway car hijack by an organized team of criminals looking for a ransom. It's great fun to watch, lots of old New York sarcasm and street grit: the mayor of New York is an incompetent baboon who's useless when something doesn't seem to serve his next reelection campaign, the real cops are mostly gun-happy blunderers, and Matthau's stuck in the middle of it trying to defeat criminals more intelligent than anybody who works with him. It's a lost classic in a lot of ways. Y'know how, Reservoir Dogs, all the guys have color-names so they'll have something anonymous to call each other? That's a Tarantino homage to Pelham, where the hijackers did the same thing. It also should be noted that The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three has what may be the greatest heist movie soundtrack of all time.

Since I mentioned Tarantino (and hey, you did too) - if you haven't yet, you should watch the best movie Quentin Tarantino's ever made, his Jackie Brown. It's precisely what you're talking about in a lot of ways, and it's Tarantino's only movie that really tries to be soulful.

And hey - if you're looking for more of this kind of film, you should peruse this Wiki list of heist films.
posted by koeselitz at 5:24 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Would definitely second Sexy beast. Ben Kingsley playing a character so diametrically opposed to Gandhi that it takes the cake.

Also seconding Miller's crossing, its one of my favourite Coen brothers movies. Melville as previously mentioned made a few good ones. Bob le Flambeur is great but personally I prefer the Le Cercle Rouge. This is the original mold in which all classic bank heist movies have been made thus far.
posted by camerasforeyes at 5:29 PM on December 4, 2009

Try going old-school with The Lavender Hill Mob.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:07 PM on December 4, 2009


Can I bend the genre a bit and suggest some hit man movies? These also have stylish gentlemen doing violence in innovative ways.

Ghost Dog.

Grosse Pointe Blank.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:05 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Some good suggestions here. +1 for Layer Cake, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Smokin' Aces, and the Departed.
posted by roomwithaview at 7:28 PM on December 4, 2009

Nthing Layer Cake - really good stuff.

Also The Lavender Hill Mob.
posted by Artw at 8:20 PM on December 4, 2009

Once Upon A Time In America (Jewish mafia )
posted by bingo at 8:46 PM on December 4, 2009

No one has mentioned The Way of the Gun? Granted, points off for having Juliette Lewis in a central role, but Benicio del Toro and a surprisingly gritty Ryan Phillipe vs. everyone? Pretty good, brutally realistic, well written. If you like Boondock Saints, you'd like this movie.

Plus it has a legendary opening scene which only gets better when you listen to the director's commentary, where the writter and director explain their inspiration for the scene, based off a real encounter they had.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:39 PM on December 4, 2009

Yojimbo - !
posted by coffeefilter at 9:57 PM on December 4, 2009

Let me strongly disagree with everyone who recommended Infernal Affairs against The Departed. Scorsese is a great director and it shows in the difference between the two movies.
posted by Anything at 10:10 PM on December 4, 2009

If you're going to do Bob le Flambeur, also do Rififi and Touchez pas au grisbi. Noir that shit up!
posted by fleacircus at 2:05 AM on December 5, 2009

Nowhere near a perfect hit of your criteria but fun if you haven't seen it, or even if you have -- Le Femme Nakita -- not smeared with blood but enough to keep it interesting; it's really cute, fast-paced, it's got a pretty girl who doesn't play well with others, a hokey love story with another underlying, cool guns, fun characters. Keep an eye open for Victor, The Cleaner...
posted by dancestoblue at 2:47 AM on December 5, 2009

Green Street Hooligans

Football firms... might as well be gangs. Violence... check.
posted by clearly at 3:39 AM on December 5, 2009

A great Scorcese film that won 4 Oscars, The Departed.

All the best parts from that movie was taken, directly, from the original Infernal Affairs trilogy. The third part is not great, but the first two are absolutely amazing and expand on every single element that Scorcese lifted to make his version good. Both are worth watching, but I really do recommend watching the original first.

I would also recommend History of Violence as well as Way of the Gun as excellent and atypical examples of the genre.

And for the love of god and all that is holy, do NOT EVER watch the remake of Get Carter.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:52 AM on December 5, 2009

I'm completely into this genre too, and after I ran out of gangster movies, I went for con men films where you can't always figure out who the good guys are), so here are some of those (not to derail, but I like 'em):

The Grifters

Spanish Prisoner
Glengarry Glen Ross
Catch me if you Can
House of Games
posted by dzaz at 4:52 AM on December 5, 2009

If you want gangster movies, you've got to look toward HongKong. The Triad has always been a fruitful subject for HK film makers.
I would personally recommend Johnny To's movies. My film buff friend thinks he's one of the last ones who still make movies about the "brotherhood", that platonic male-male relationship that used to be the running theme of HK movies traditions.
Election 1 , and 2 are full of Triad's political machinations. Oh, and the whole thing is a metaphor of the relationship between China and Hongkong.

And if you are in the mood for some more HK gangsters movies classic, check out, Chow Yun Fat's John Woo movies, start with The Killer and A better tomorrow, I think.

Count me in as one of those who prefers Infernal Affair. That last scene in The Departed was ridiculous, hit me in the face with the hammer, won't you, Scorsese, I don't think you made that point clear enough. And the ending was just so American in it's black and white justice not to mention the way Nicholson went mad and just chewed all the scene he was in. Where is the nuances, Scorsese?
posted by LenaO at 5:52 AM on December 5, 2009

Red, which stars Lawrence Tierney of Reservoir Dogs.
posted by jbickers at 7:14 AM on December 5, 2009

Ok, it's US and it's got Italian's but you gotta check out True Romance. It has one of my favorite scenes ever between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken. And I love this question.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 9:48 AM on December 5, 2009

Jules Dassin's Night and the City(1950) — the downfall of an American Hustler in Interwar London. More strictly dark noir than straight up gangster, it could none the less be seen as an Ur Brisitsh Gangster film (and it's terrific).
posted by tallus at 9:49 AM on December 5, 2009

Le Samourai and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie are unorthodox takes on the genre.
posted by ifjuly at 11:55 AM on December 5, 2009

Trainspotting is a movie about heroin and gangsters (sort of).
posted by Groovytimes at 2:43 PM on December 5, 2009

King of New York. Not British, but Christopher Walken, David Caruso, Wesley Snipes, Laurence Fishburne. Gangsters, ultra-violence, drugs, nudity, and the classic line "They're for the bullet-holes, motherfuckers!"
posted by conifer at 2:44 PM on December 5, 2009


Excellent, brutal, deadpan Japanese crime films by Takeshi Kitano. They are like nothing else recommended on this list. The best description I can give is, "Imagine a film codirected Michael Mann and Wes Anderson." Fireworks is the better of the two, but Sonatine has more memorable moments, including a brilliant Russian Roulette sequence.

The 51st State
is a crime film that. . .well, on the one hand it stars Samuel L. Jackson and is somewhat British. On the other hand, it sucks.
posted by Ndwright at 2:17 AM on December 11, 2009

Response by poster: Now that I have had time to watch a few of the ones suggested I just marked best answers to the ones that blew me away or gave me a great list to work with. I am definitly working my way through the rest too.

Kudos for all the help.
posted by beautifulcheese at 11:27 AM on December 15, 2009

How did Heat not make this list? Ok, Deniro and Kilmer aren't technically gangsters, but they are ruthless and cunning criminals.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:34 AM on October 23, 2010

« Older My car steering is making a weird noise.   |   Is it too late to save my still rising loaf of... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.