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Crime Face-Offs

Introduction to the Crime Classic Face-Off: 

The crime genre is really an off-shoot of the thriller genre, a thriller that focuses on the planning, execution, prevention, or investigation of crime. Though easily enough summarised, this contained sub-genre offers much in the way of variety and range. Those crime movies which focus primarily on the planning and execution of a crime build their story and plot (and with it the audience’s compassion) around the “bad guys” and so the result is a movie very different in tone to those that focus on the prevention and investigation of crime – those that hitch their star to the “good guy’s” crusade. Though most crime films detail the activities of “the robbers” as (or almost as) much as “the cops”, most usually use the former as a one dimensional contrast for the latter. The bad guys in these films are bad and while the best of these films will at least acknowledge and even explore the human side to these characters (e.g., The French Connection), the audience will be left unambiguous when it comes to who they want to win. Movies that give us no recourse other than to weigh in behind a criminal (quite often a savage one) thus have an edge that few if any of the straight-up “good guy” films can produce. They tantalise us with the freedoms offered by a life of crime (best examined by the carefree opulent lifestyle) and fascinate us with the curtailments (best examined with a prison stint). Movies such as The Godfather, Once Upon a Time in America, and Goodfellas were the standard bearer for such a formula up until the 1990’s when a more low-key type of gangster (and thus a more low-key kind of criminal success) caught our fascination. Films like Pulp Fiction and the peerless television show The Sopranos showed us a different type of gangster, one that seemed more levelled and perhaps even real. Their ambitions and range of success may have been downscaled but our desire to see the thieves, robbers, gangsters, and murderers go free and unfettered remained as strong as ever. Then there are the movies that walk that most difficult of tightropes and keep the audience in a state of dissonance, portraying the good and bad guys so evenly that we want both to win. Whether they do this by blurring the lines between “good” and “bad” (e.g., Donnie Brasco) or by doing something altogether more complex (e.g., Heat) offers yet more variety in this most intriguing of sub-genres. From the heist movies of the 60’s onward or the Gangster films which popped up as early as the 1920’s, or the cops and robbers flicks of the 1970s & 80’s, there’s no doubt, the crime genre offers a rich platform to tap and explore complexities deep within our psyche, where the roots to our moral codes and hero constructs are more hidden and complicated than can be appreciated on any explicit level. This is a testament to the power and indeed importance of the crime genre as both an art and entertainment form.

The List

As always, when compiling the list of crime classics to be faced off against each other, my greatest concern was whether certain films belonged in a different genre face-off. For example, Miller’s Crossing is certainly as worthy of being considered a crime classic as Once Upon a Time in America is but it is also a film-noir (which as explained in my introduction to the Thriller FaceOff really warrants its own face-off). The question then arose as to whether it was more a noir than a gangster film. I decided it was given its undeniable noir structure and that ultimate nod and a wink:- the dialogue. Similarly, Leon: The Professional is set right in the middle of a crime war that has cops on one side and Mafioso on the other. But it is also an action film and a spellbinding one at that. Therefore, I concluded that its most impressive strengths lay within the action genre and that is where it will be faced off. Lastly, one of my personal favourite films, The Taking of Pelham 123 is undeniably steeped in 70’s crime cinema but for me, it’s the film’s astonishing capacity to thrill that defines it most clearly which is why it has been included in the thriller face-offs.

Thief vs The Usual Suspects

                 

Thief vs The Usual Suspects

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Get Carter vs Reservoir Dogs

             

Get Carter vs Reservoir Dogs

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Bullitt vs The French Connection

               

Bullitt vs The French Connection

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The Godfather vs Goodfellas

                

The Godfather vs Goodfellas

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L.A. Confidential vs Serpico

                  

L.A. Confidential vs Serpico

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Bonnie and Clyde vs Get Carter

               

Bonnie and Clyde vs Get Carter

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Bullitt vs Dirty Harry

               

Bullitt vs Dirty Harry

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Goodfellas vs Pulp Fiction

              

Goodfellas vs Pulp Fiction

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The French Connection vs Reservoir Dogs

             

The French Connection vs Reservoir Dogs

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The Godfather vs The Godfather Part II

                 

The Godfather vs The Godfather Part II

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Bonnie and Clyde vs L.A. Confidential

                

Bonnie and Clyde vs L.A. Confidential

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Badlands vs Blood Simple

                

Badlands vs Blood Simple

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Fargo vs Training Day

             

Fargo vs Training Day

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City of God vs Inside Man

           

City of God vs Inside Man

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Serpico vs To Live and Die in LA

            

Serpico vs To Live and Die in LA

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Bullitt vs Scarface (1983)

              

Bullitt vs Scarface (1983)

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Dirty Harry vs Taxi Driver

               

Dirty Harry vs Taxi Driver

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Carlito’s Way vs Dog Day Afternoon

           

Carlito's Way vs Dog Day Afternoon

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Pulp Fiction vs White Heat

             

Pulp Fiction vs White Heat

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Get Carter vs The Untouchables

                

Get Carter vs The Untouchables

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Once Upon a Time in America vs Thief

               

Once Upon a Time in America vs Thief

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The French Connection vs Goodfellas

               

The French Connection vs Goodfellas

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Heat vs Mean Streets

          

Heat vs Mean Streets

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Reservoir Dogs vs The Usual Suspects

              

Reservoir Dogs vs The Usual Suspects

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Badlands vs Bonnie and Clyde

                

Badlands vs Bonnie and Clyde

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Blood Simple vs L.A. Confidential

                 

Blood Simple vs L.A. Confidential

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Inside Man vs Training Day

             

Inside Man vs Training Day

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City of God vs Fargo

           

City of God vs Fargo

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Bullitt vs To Live and Die in LA

           

Bullitt vs To Live and Die in LA

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Scarface (1983) vs Serpico

               

Scarface (1983) vs Serpico

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Dog Day Afternoon vs Taxi Driver

            

Dog Day Afternoon vs Taxi Driver

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Carlito’s Way vs Dirty Harry

              

Carlito's Way vs Dirty Harry

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The Untouchables vs White Heat

                

The Untouchables vs White Heat

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Get Carter vs Pulp Fiction

             

Get Carter vs Pulp Fiction

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Goodfellas vs Once Upon a Time in America

               

Goodfellas vs Once Upon a Time in America

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The French Connection vs Thief

               

The French Connection vs Thief

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Mean Streets vs The Usual Suspects

                

Mean Streets vs The Usual Suspects

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Heat vs Reservoir Dogs

        

Heat vs Reservoir Dogs

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List of Movies for the Crime Classics Face-Off

Badlands

Blood Simple

Bonnie and Clyde

Bullitt

Carlito’s Way

City of God

Dirty Harry

Dog Day Afternoon

Fargo

The French Connection

Get Carter

The Godfather

The Godfather Part II

Goodfellas

Heat

Inside Man

Mean Streets

L.A. Confidential

Lock, Stock and Two Smokin Barrels

Once Upon a Time in America

Pulp Fiction

Reservoir Dogs

Scarface (1983)

Serpico

Taxi Driver

Thief

To Live and Die in LA

Training Day

The Untouchables

The Usual Suspects

White Heat

Films deemed not mainstream enough

Across 110th Street

Le Cercle Rouge

Le Samourai

The Long Good Friday

Rashomon

The Roaring Twenties

The Public Enemy

Sexy Beast

Scarface (1932)

Additional Visitor Suggestions:

The Bank Job

Casino

Donnie Brasco

Gangster #1

Killing Zoe

Ocean’s Eleven

New Centurions

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2 thoughts on “Crime Face-Offs”

  1. At least half the films not considered mainstream enough are at least as good as nearly all of the “approved” films in my opinion, especially the French ones.

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