From start to finish, it's a story of friendship between 4 street-wise males who don't mind using violence to achieve the lives that they want. They trust no one but each other which is vital to their success as mobsters.
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The story of a group of friends in turn of the century New York, from their early days as street hoods to their rise in the world of organized crime. As their crime empire expands, they have to deal with many problems, including their own differing opinions on how to run their business, the local Godfather, and the psychotic Mad Dog Coll. Written by
Murray Chapman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Internal Revenue Service is mentioned twice as having
investigated income tax evasion. Before 1953 the IRS was the "Bureau of Internal Revenue"; it was changed to Internal Revenue Service to emphasize "service" to taxpayers. See more »
[his last words, while playing cards]
... What's the matter? Did I make a wrong bet?
[Mad Dog Coll guns him down from behind]
See more »
This movie is based on the rise of four leading organised crime figures, from the end of WW 1 to the early thirties. The central character, Charles (Lucky) Luciano (Christian Slater)is credited, if that's the right word, for introducing modern corporate governance to a group of organisations previously based on ethnic affiliation and loyalty to a chief. So, in the movie he and his associates Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello and Bugsy Siegel works to bring down two aging Dons whose time has come. The Dons, played by Anthony Quinn and Michael Gambon, are certainly ruthless, but their imaginations are limited. The young turks on the other hand see new markets and new alliances. In the new mafia, Irishmen, Russian Jews and others work alongside Italians.
The period is evoked beautifully in shades of brown and cream. Unfortunately many scenes have a certain sameness to them - a couple of hoods meet in some office or hotel for a delicate business chat, each armed to the teeth. When an impass is reached the guns blaze away. This gets boring after a while and you start to wonder why they don't use the phone sometimes. It isn't because the FBI are after them (the IRS was a bit more successful) and they have the New York cops in their pocket. There are some very bloody scenes depicted with gratuitious graphicness.
Luciano and to a lesser extent Lansky are quite sympathetically depicted, with many of the killings being of "let's kill them before they kill us variety." Poor old Tony Quinn is put down not even able to remember the guy whose death is being avenged. One thing that does come out is that organised crime was in the US long before the prohibition era, but the money made then financed the mob into many other areas, pre-eminently gambling in Cuba and Las Vegas. Meyer Lansky was the biggest investor in the early Vegas casino the "Flamingo", opened I think, by Bugsy Siegal.
This is a moderately interesting account, though with some substantial departures from the historical record. Apart from all the gore my objection to it is that it glamourises some very nasty people who did a great deal of damage to American public life. The FBI, and all its attacks on civil liberties, justified its existence by reference to organised crime, yet did little to stop it. After the time covered by the film Luciano was imprisoned not through the efforts of the FBI but through those of NY prosecutor Thomas Dewey. Luciano was eventually deported to Italy, after assisting the OSS, forerunner of the CIA, in their wartime dealings with the Sicilian mafia. Al Capone, a bit player here, was famously imprisoned for tax evasion. Meyer Lansky was charged with tax evasion in the early 1970s, but beat the rap. He died peacfully at 81 in retirement in Florida. His family not only maintain his grave, but also a web site about him.
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