Saturday, July 01, 2017

The Gang's All Here

Summer re-runs are fun, aren't they? Here's one from a couple of years back.

With THE SOPRANOS becoming a distant memory and the next season of BOARDWALK EMPIRE months away, my appetite for gangland drama has been voracious as of late. I've been jonesing like a Droogie for a bit of the old ultraviolence, either cinematically or broadcastically.

JUSTIFIED really does fit the bill. Them country boys down in Butcher Holler (or whatever holler they holler in) are more than a barrel full of wiseguys with a side of grits. It's also fueled my interest in the written works of Elmore Leonard, creator of Raylan Givens and the rest of these dangerous hillbillies.But damn it, season 3's over and gone as well (with a super duper villain turn by Neil McDonough) and I need more more more as Andrea True once sang.

So I've delved into the international market. Yakuza (the Japanese equivalent of the Mafia) films always foot the bill, particularly those by Kenji Fukasaku whose work includes SYMPATHY FOR THE UNDERDOG and the five part saga BATTLES WITHOUT HONOUR AND HUMANITY. I've been gaga for French crime mellers since the late great Jules Dassin's RIFIFI. My favorites among these have been Jacques Becker's TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI (the English translation being DON'T TOUCH THE LOOT. Love it.) and Jean-Pierre Melville's LE CERCLE ROUGE. Oh, in case you didn't know: Jean Gabin is God. There's also the Danish mob as portrayed in DRIVE director Nicolas Winding Refn's sensational PUSHER trilogy, tales not for the squeamish but the squeamish shouldn't be here anyway. They should be watching TWILIGHT.

But lately, I've been caught up in Chinese director Johnny To's films about the Triad gangs, ELECTION and its immediate sequel TRIAD ELECTION. These two cold-blooded tales are intricate in their story telling as well as crash courses in modern Chinese culture, particularly since the end of the British occupation. They are also extremely devious by nature. At one point, you're almost led to believe that a main protagonist is quite benign and almost humane in his depiction as the story unravels until he suddenly becomes the most sadistic character of the bunch. Chilling, thrilling and always fascinating, Johnny To's movies always deliver. Also check out To's FULLTIME KILLER with Andy Lau and EXILED with one of the coolest of the cool, Simon Yam.

Give Johnny To's gangster dramas a look see and soon you'll be saying: "Leave the gun. Take the potstickers."
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