It seems almost like a strange paradox; the very things we detest in life, actively speak against and refuse to glorify; violence, crime, lying and cheating, is the very same thing we are awed by and applauded at in the gangster genre, may it be the king of gangster film Martin Scorsese with the likes of Goodfellas, Mean streets or Gangs of New York. Rising star Quentin Taratino with the seminal smash hits Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, and finally you have probably the orchestrator of one of the greatest films of all time regardless of genre in Frances Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. All these directors construct films that we simply can’t get enough of despite our initial impression on a life of crime. The gangster genre is not just popular; it also makes for great cinema of both artistic and commercial success, just look at The Godfather winner of 1972 Best Picture or The Departed winner of the 2006 Best Picture. The Gangster genre was born out of prohibition America in the 1920’s, which goes to show that even from the very beginning of the gangster film inception we had a deep affinity for the genre because it seemed to appeal to our deep underling desire for liberation against a state that seeks to restrict us, so we yarn only defy these strict rules placed upon us by society. The life of a cinema gangster to us because it means finally receiving the respect we feel we deserve, clearly represented in the Godfather as people cross streets just to kiss the hand of Don Colleon. Or it might appeal to our need for finical comfort, for a life of crime also promises more wealth than an average man could get from an honest day’s work, just look at the likes of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Tony Montana as best illustration of this. Maybe being a gangsters could mean being loyal and trustworthy to your partners and badass to the face of the rest of the world. But whatever the appeal is and the reason behind it, it’s irrelevant because at the end of the day for me in particular the gangster genre is just the coolest on the planet. Personally I am obsessed with gangster pictures, to the extent that not a week goes by that I don’t gauge on a small esoteric miscellany of them.
It was last week in particular that my fellow gangster film enthusiasts and I sat down to watch Snatch and Resiviour Dogs, but in particular the later Resiviour dogs was the one that really stood out to me. It tells of the exploits of Mr Pink, Mr Blue, Mr Brown, Mr Orange, Mr White and Mr Blonde and their attempts at a bank robbery that ultimately comes to a disastrous bloody end, coinciding with the revelation that one of them was an undercover police cop all along. But what I loved most about Resiviour Dogs, wasn’t the action, dialogue or the amazing plot twist, was instead to do with the phenomenal characterisations. Each gangster had a distinctive personality and a specific trait to bring to the table, which is a rarity in an ensemble piece for each to be so defined and uniquely useful. That got me thinking, as great at the likes of Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel and Quentin Taratino were in the film, which actors would actually be part of the ultimate gangster squared and what imperative traits would they need to bring to the table. First of all we need to establish what the ultimate gangster squared would look like. Well after seeing multiple ensemble crime outfits such as Oceans 11, the Italian job remake and of course Resiviour Dogs, I believe that the ultimate gangster squared would need to consist of; a leader, the imposter, the voice of reason, the natural born killer and the hot head. Each is imperative for ensuring no matter what ‘job’, heist or plain murder that need to be committed, that they always guaranteed to get things done, done right and with style. But don’t worry, you can stop the guessing work and scratching your head, I got just right 5 guys to do it.
In reverse order we start off with the hot head mad man; the guy doesn’t offer you panache, style and finesse but he makes up for it by being an unpredictable, mad man lunatic. Which is of course brilliant if you have a state official, whiteness or judge that needs a little scaring, you send the hot head in to give them a little freight they will never forget and next day guess who didn’t turn up to court. Also because of the lack of brain cells the hot head possesses, if there a highly dangerous job that anyone with a iota of intelligence will avoid, you know for sure that the hot head mad man on the other hand would be the first one in through the doors, two guns blazing against a warehouse rammed packed with army of mafia hit men as he tries to take out a rival crime boss. But the draw back with a hot head is, he as a very volatile nature meaning that he can often be very difficult to work with, he doesn’t take orders well and his rash stupidity is capable of jeopardising a job. In my mind the only guy who is the very definition of the characteristics of the hot head man can only be Sam Rodwell. Even on a good day the guy looks insane, and I mean type of insane to pick a Chihuahua a bit its head of type of insane. He can play the part too; just watch him in The Green Mile as violent, psychopathic William “Wild Bill” Wharton, who in the film is sentence to death for multiple murders committed during a robbery. Sam’s performance in the film is haunting, and he embodies Wild Bills; unpredictable, short tempered and callus nature perfectly.
Next we have the natural born killer, unlike the hot head; the natural born killer does possess the finesse and style that the mad man lacks, whilst being cool, calm and collected when faced when crazy occurrences the job may turn up. If you want a certain wife dead after catching her in bed with your brother, buried and leaving no evidence or witnesses standing, then your natural born killer is man you put on speed dial. This role in the team just screams out for someone who is always confident and composed but yet has the cold, blood thirty eyes of a great white shark. In that case look no further than Michael Madsen, blessed with a beautiful lock of hair and a dazzling smile that leaves all women swooning at his feet, but behind his steely gaze there is a look of the devil himself. Don’t believe me, just look at his role as Mr. Blonde, a.k.a. Victor “Vic” Vega in Resiviour dogs as he looms over you about to cut off your hear with all the enthusiasm of child opening a Christmas present and tell me that he isn’t the embodiment of the role.
The voice of reason is a usually a little smarter than your average bear, he adds the alkaline to the unstable acid that the natural born killer and the hot head bring to the table. He also brings the logical pragmatic solution to any problem that may occur, like how to break in to the impregnable safe, or how to smuggle ten people in a country with only a four setter car at hand. The guy is useful, but with so much brain, you just know the guy has no brawn, and while the others will rather die than squeal, the voice of reason is far too smart to do someone else’s time in prison. This big brain on a spineless weasel’s body just has to be Steve Buscemi; personally one of my favourite actors working in Hollywood today. The guy is a legend so probably won’t need much introduction particularly to you Coen Brother’s fans. Fargo is probably one of the brothers most accomplished film, and probably features one of Steve’s best performances as Carl Showalter as the slightly more practical, panicked, nagging member of his murderous twosome. Then if you look at Steve as Mr Pink is Resiviour dogs it’s easy to see why the role as the voice of reason would fit him so perfectly.
No ultimate gangster squared comes complete with out an imposter, a charming guy who masquerade himself as any do Gooding boy scout when the job requires it, for an example just like in the Departed where Matt Damon goes undercover in the Boston police department to gather information for Jack Nicholson; there is always going to be a job that requires someone to infiltrate a police departments or opposing crime syndicates to ensure that the team is always one step ahead. So queue the imposter. The type of guy to fly incognito under the radar without raising suspicion, because in the eyes of the general public, he is as trustworthy and honest as they come, but deep down they are purely bad to the bone. Sound like the most difficult and dangerous role in the squared right? That’s because it is. But don’t worry I have just the guy, allow me to introduce to you Mr Benico Del Toro, one bad ass son of a bitch ones minute, while the next he is the type of guy to save a cat from a burning tree. His whole career has been devoted between walking the fine line between the good and the bad. Just look at his Oscar winning role as police officer Javier Rodriguez in Traffic who refuses any Cartel bribes at all costs as a demonstration of the good, then look at his role as Fred Fenster in The usual suspect who wouldn’t hesitate putting a bullet into his own mothers head as a representation of the bad. The guy is perfectly suited in both roles, so if you need someone on the inside gathering information for you or to keep the copes searching in all the wrong places as you effortlessly smuggle a ton of cocaine in the country, then Benico Del Toro is your man.
Last but not least, it’s the boss man himself. A guy who is the epitome of a life of crime, who effortlessly combines all the four characteristics listed above. He’s the type of guy that the devil has nightmares about. But he has to be all that or he could easily be killed by the natural born killer or the hot head, out smarted by the voice of reason or charmed by the Imposter, so to ensure he isn’t he must be better than all of them at their own game. It’s some big shoes to fill, many where considered for the role; Al Pacino for his role as the ruthless Michael in Godfather 2, Jack Nicholson the epitome of a crime pro in The Departed or even Kevin Spacey as the illusive Keysa Sume inThe Usual Suspect. But as good or should I say bad, as those guys were, it just had to be Mr Christopher Walker. Just like Steve Buscemi as the voice of reason, Walker as leader doesn’t need much validating or justifying, he just one mean smooth talking mutha fucker! You’re not convince? Just look at New Jack City and True Romance to see all the convincing you need.
The team is so perfect that if they wanted they could do a lot of good in this world, hey they could even be superheroes, but why be good when being bad is so much more fun. You can give my team any job, robbing a bank, smuggling a ton of cocaine into the country, kill a rival crime boss or even kidnap the President or America, yet time and time again, they will get the job done, no mess, no witnesses and with a whole lot of style. My ultimate gangster squared can do it all.