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Can Mafia movies survive in the modern era?

Whilst sci-fi movies like Star Wars: The Last Jedi and comic book action films like Justice League look to keep cinema-goers happy over the festive period, there are some genres that are struggling to find big audiences.

Although indie hits like Let There Be Light can achieve a modest breakthrough success, it’s clear that the classic mafia movie is having a hard time in the 21st century.

If you look at how the later years of the 20th century saw no end of classic mob movies like Goodfellas, Casino, and The Godfather, it seems as though modern cinema audiences might have grown tired of the stereotypical mafia fare.


Despite some well-meaning gangster movies like Johnny Depp’s Black Mass being released to critical acclaim last year, such films are becoming increasingly rare at our multiplexes.

It’s hard to imagine a gangster film as brutal as Scarface being released in today’s increasingly sanitised times. And whilst we can all play roulette games online, it’s been a long time since we saw gangsters and the gaming tables so gloriously portrayed as in Martin Scorsese’s 1995 classic, Casino.

Perhaps cinema audiences have grown weary of the main motifs of the Mafia movie. Whilst The Godfather must have seemed extremely raw and edgy when it was released in 1972, the film has become parodied endlessly and such displays of machismo are increasingly unpalatable today.

Plenty of commentators have stated that the runaway success of the TV show, The Sopranos, was another nail in the coffin for the humble Mafia movie. Not only did this reveal a level of humanity in the gangland bosses that hadn’t been seen before, but it kickstarted the whole box-set revolution that continues to this day.

Although Martin Scorsese has made a handful of gangster movies since the turn of the century such as The Departed, it seems as though there is nobody in the current generation of movie-makers who is able to handle such heavy-weight material with the same level of skill as Scorsese.

Quentin Tarantino seems to be more occupied with making westerns than returning to the suit-and-tie trademarks of Reservoir Dogs, whilst Guy Ritchie has long since stopped being a credible film-maker ever since the Swept Away debacle in 2002.

But with some foreign-language film-makers like Matteo Garrone being able to deliver 2008’s stunning, Gomorrah, there’s hope that we will see plenty more characters from the criminal underworld toting their guns and playing roulette on our cinema screens soon.


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