Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Waiting For Godfather

Where have all the good mob movies gone? Is the golden age of the on screen mafia finished? If not, to whom do we turn? Certainly De Niro, Paccino, and Pesci can't carry the torch forever.

I honestly cannot say that there has been an epic mob film in the last 10 years. The Godfather Trilogy, Scarface, A Bronx Tale, Goodfellas, Casino, Bugsy, and The Untouchables have romanced audiences with stories of violence, power, respect, family, and lawlessness. Mob films are a genre unto themselves, the 20th century version of Westerns. In fact, Westerns and Mob Movies have a lot in common. It's the law vs outlaws, brutal justice, plenty of gun play, and men forging their own destinies. But America's love affair with the Western comes and goes. John Wayne and Clint Eastwood dominated Westerns back in the day. Then, after a lull in the genre, we see Young Guns, Tomestone, Wyatt Earp, and Dances With Wolves herald in a new era. Is this the same with Mob Movies? Was there a golden era, and is that era going to return?

Whether based on real life characters like Bugsy and Henry Hill, or fictitious stories like Casino, Mob Movies attracted audiences like flies to honey. But in order to pull this off, there had to be a synergy between brilliant screenplays, directors like Martin Scorsese, Warren Beatty and Francis Ford Coppola who respect and treat the source material with great care, and actors like De Niro, Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta, and Al Pacino who's natural persona's and on screen chemistry can pull off convincing and compelling characters. This formula has created several compelling films, and dominated the industry with Academy Award nominations and wins. With the original Godfather released in 1972 and Casino released in 1995, if Mob Movies had a golden age, this would be it. Since 1995 it seems, Hollywood shifted focus, with Sci-Fi dominating the box office. Here, we've seen the release of a special edition of Star Wars, an entirely new Star Wars Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and a slew of Superhero films. As they ask in the Westerns, "Ain't this town big enough for the two of us?"

Apparently not. Some films like Donnie Brasko (1997) and The Departed (2006) have attempted to keep the fire burning, but have not scored the success, nor stood out, like their predecessors. Other films like Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and A History Of Violence have gangster themes, but these are tales told in a modern context. Audiences seem more interested in the bygone era's of the Mob. Clearly, there are distinctions between gangster movies, and mob movies.

As we enter a second decade removed from the Golden Era, where do we turn? Who are the directors that will romance us like Scorsese and Coppola? Who are the actors that will keep us glued to our seats? A few actors from the Soprano's could be cast to type, but hardly worthy of a lead role. try and imagine being tasked as a casting director for a remake of the Godfather. Who would we cast as Michael Corleone? Matt le Blanc? Johnny Depp as Fredo? There doesn't seem to be anyone in Hollywood, either as an up and comer, or an established star, that could pull off a convincing "Made Man."

Again, like the Western, the Mob Movie genre seems to be headed off into the sunset, but it will return again, someday.

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