From the Archive: St. Patrick's Day Irish Crime Films

Yes, I used to be a lonely blogger before co-founding Cinema Sandwich. I still love making lists and here was one I made and enjoyed making circa 2011 about one of my favorite sub-genres: The Irish Mob Crime film. There is still some movies I wished I added to the list but I think it is a good start if you are looking for some St. Paddy's day cinema. Enjoy!


 

I’m definitely not Irish, and I don’t try to pretend than I am. I enjoy Lucky Charms, dislike Guinness Beer, and don’t personally think I look flattering in green. I DO however love the Irish accents, and Boston Irish accents, especially in films. Some of our favorite/memorable crime films are involving those crazy Irish. So here’s a list of my favorites in no particular order that would be a good viewing for your St. Patrick’s Day pregaming or afterparty.

The Departed (The De-Pah-ted) (2006)
Directed: Martin Scorsese

 

This is probably the most common movie named when people think of Irish crime films. It’s a 2006 Oscar Best Picture winner about two Irish Boston kids who grow up, one becoming a cop turned undercover informant (Leo DiCaprio), while the other works for a mob boss, going undercover as a mob informant (Matt Damon). Both men begin to work under the eccentric and slightly psychotic Jack Nicholson in one of his juiciest roles. The film itself is a remake of a Korean film, and uses many of the film’s major scenes, but has a much more fleshed-out screenplay, longer than the original and more rounded. Director Martin Scorsese took all his years of crime film movie-making and created, a fast-paced, extremely stylish, endlessly quotable, and highly re-watchable piece of cinema. The movie never wastes a frame of film, and is completely absorbing, often hilarious, and a bit heartbreaking. All of the 3 main actors are brilliant to watch onscreen, and even have to deal with some memorable turns from scene-stealing Alec Baldwin, Ray Winstone, Mark Wahlberg, and Martin Sheen. The movie has a very effective soundtrack ranging from the opening with Rolling Stone’s “Gimme Shelter” to Dropkick Murphy’s “Shipping up to Boston.” Not only is this movie a satisfying piece of cinema from beginning to end, its also one of the most definitive crime films of our generation.

The Untouchables (1987)
Directed by: Brian DePalma

 

Here’s another common pick, and being a Chicagoan, I imagine this movie is the bible for most Chicago cops. The movie is the semi-factual story of Elliott Ness (Kevin Costner), an honest cop who assembles a team of other honest cops including the very Scottish Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery) to take down the very bald, fat, and sweaty Robert DeNiro as Al Capone. The movie isn’t entirely accurate but it extremely entertaining. Connery’s Scottish charm plays perfectly against Costner’s ridiculous seriousness. Every scene is memorable with fantastic David Mamet dialogue and a magic of violence and drama director Brian DePalma has been trying to recapture for years. “That’s how you get things done. That’s the Chicago Way.” Fuckin’ A.


The Boondock Saints (1999)
Directed by: Troy Duffy

 

This low-budget direct to video film never made it to theaters but has gained a massive cult following over the years and inspired many college kids’ tattoos and wardrobes. The film concerns two Irish fraternal twins (Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flannery) who get into a scuffle with the Irish Mob and get inspired to start taking matters into their hands. The movie is a A to B vigilante movie story that is elevated by odd, often hilarious, homophobic/racist sense of humor and its inventive shootouts narrated by the gay super detective played by Willem Dafoe. It is a movie that is highly re-watchable and still entertaining over 10 years later, and has inspired other low-budget filmmakers to try to recreate what made this odd little B grade flick resonate with audiences throughout the years. If your ambitious you could check out the sequel which had its moments but ultimately couldn’t hold a candle to the fun of the original.

Miller’s Crossing (1990)
Directed by: The Coen Brothers

 

This is one of the Coen Brother’s overlooked earlier works that is more of a serious entry like No Country for Old Men and less of a slapstick comedy like Burn after Reading. The cast is filed with the usual suspects found in a Coen Bros.  film and stars Gabriel Bryne as a gangster caught up between a war of two rival Irish crime bosses during the Prohibition-era. The movie is one of my personal favorite Coen films and probably the most serious out of my film picks. The movie can be confusing at times with juggled multiple characters but is anchored by two great performances from Albert Finney, as a crime boss, who dispatches thugs to the song “Danny Boy” in one of the film’s most memorable sequences. The other standout performance belongs to John Turturro, who should have won a best Supporting actor Oscar for his layered performance and scene in the forest which send you chills. The film is not for everyone, but definitely a gem in the Coen Brother’s filmography.


Gangs of New York (2002)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese


Another Scorsese film, that is almost like The Departed in the 1800’s mixed with the Warriors. The story concerns a group of rival American and immigrant Gangs in early New York. The leader of one gang is the fearless Bill the Butcher, played by (pre-Daniel Planview) Daniel Day Lewis. Lewis has one of his best roles that is both sympathetic and terrifying. One could argue that the movie would be shite without his presence. Leonardo DiCaprio also stars a young Irishman, whose father, played in a cameo by Liam Neeson, is killed by Day-Lewis, and now is seeking vengeance. He joins The Butcher’s gang in an effort to get closer to him, and their relationship becomes the most compelling part of the film. Cameron Diaz tries her best to be a love interest, but ultimately plays Cameron Diaz in the 1800’s. An overlong movie is worth watching for beautiful set design, Daniel Day-Lewis, some kick-ass fight scenes, and a little bit of American history. Also, look for some serious supporting roles by Brendan Gleeson and John C. Reily.