A History Of Violence Gangster Movies 2000S

Early 2000s: Scarface, Snatch & Beyond

With the dawn of the new millennium, Hollywood released a whole slew of new gangster movie titles. Scarface, starring Al Pacino, was one of the earliest to dominate the box office. This remake of the 1932 film promised a gangster movie that was more contemporary, more violent, and more relatable. Primarily set in Miami’s drug-plagued Little Havana district, the film followed Tony Montana, played by Pacino, as he rises to the world of drug dealing and eventually finds himself on top of the world – only to be brought crashing down by his own hubris. The brutality and darkness of Scarface was viewed by many film-goers as too graphic, and it wasn’t necessarily an Academy Award favorite. But for those of us that lived through the 2000s, the film remains an iconic gangster classic, a vivid reminder of the decade that was and the societal issues we still face today.
The same year, Guy Ritchie’s British crime caper Snatch hit theaters. Written and directed by Ritchie, Snatch followed the antics of a group of criminals, whose colorful personalities and crazy schemes took viewers through levels of hilarity and suspense. While Snatch wasn’t quite as violent as Scarface, it still portrayed enough bloodshed, sharp-shooter shootouts, punch-lines, and slick dialogue to make audiences all around the world fall in love with the movie.

Mafia Masterpieces of the 2000s

2002 saw two very different mafia films that made the list of greatest gangster movies of the millennium. The first was the Italian classic ‘The Gangs of New York,’ and starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Amsterdam Vallon, a man trying to avenge the death of his father while carving his own place in the colorful world of 19th Century New York City gangs and politicians. Directed by Martin Scorsese, it was gritty and dripping with atmosphere and ambition. The film also brought DiCaprio to the mainstream stardom he enjoys today.
The other great mafia classic of 2002 was the Coen Brothers’ The Man Who Wasn’t There, which followed an unassuming barber played by Billy Bob Thorton as he become embroiled in an insurance scheme with the help of a shady lawyer. In typical Coen Brothers fashion, the movie was both starkly humorous and startlingly dark in its narrative, making it perhaps one of the Coen Brothers’ most unsettling and absorbing works to date.

Modern Gangsters in the Late 2000s

The latter half of the 2000s was a time of edgier, more stylized gangster films. 2007 saw the release of ‘Eastern Promises,’ a film that followed a Russian gangster, Nikolai, portrayed by Viggo Mortensen, as he navigates the treacherous waters of crime and violence in the midst of 21st century London. Despite its hard-hitting content, the film still managed to combine the brutality with a thoughtful and moving narrative, centered around Nikolai’s unlikely friendship with a pregnant teen.
2008’s ‘Let the Right One In’ was a Swedish horror/romance that follows a 12 year old boy who falls in love with a vampire, and it also stands amongst the 2000s’ list of great gangsters films. The film is a rumination on the idea of loyalty, and how this same loyalty can be both a comfort and a burden at the same time.
Perhaps the most universally acclaimed gangster film of the 500s was David Cronenberg’s ‘Eastern Promises.’ In it, innocent Naomi Watts is pulled into an underworld of Russian sex traffickers and gangsters, only to have her identity stripped away from her in a maze of violence and bloodshed. The movie was remarkable for its ultra-realistic portrayal of gang life on the streets of London, but even more so for its complex female characters, who managed to transcend the stereotypes of the genre.

The Rise of Indie Gangster Films

Just as major Hollywood movie making took a turn for the better in the 2000s, so did the rise of independent cinema. The 2004 drama ‘A Great Best Friend’ told the story of a struggling actress who moves to New York to pursue her dream of making it big. Along the way she meets a crew of colorful mobsters, and although their paths seem at odds, the story culminates in a fulfilling relationship with a powerful mobster that helps her stay grounded in her ever-changing life.
The 2000s also saw the rise of enigmatic filmmakers like James Gray, Nicolas Winding Refn, and Harmony Korine, all of whom had their own unique take on mafia and gangster films. Crime thrillers such as ‘The Yards’, ‘Pusher’, ‘Bronson’ and ‘Amazon Falls’ all managed to layer dark content with vivid visuals and unconventional story-lines, creating a cinematic universe way beyond the classic mobsters-on-the-run theme.

Gangster Culture In The 2010s

The 2010s saw a shift in gangster films towards darker, darker themes. Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Inglorious Basterds’ (2009) tells the story of a group of Jewish-American soldiers during World War II who are recruited to hunt down and kill Nazi officers. Similarly, ‘Django Unchained’ (2012) follows a slave-turned-bounty-hunter on his quest for freedom and revenge. While these films may not have fallen into the classic gangster genre, they still incorporated similar concepts of violence, justice, and honor in their narratives, giving the 2010s gangster films an even more serious and philosophical tone.
Also released in 2010 was the film ‘The Town’, which captivated audiences around the world. Led by Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner, ‘The Town’ tells the story of a gang of robbers who plans a daring assault on a Boston bank, only to realize that they are involved in something much bigger than anticipated. In typical modern gangster film style, ‘The Town’ is a thrilling journey of betrayal and violence, with a few unexpected plot twists.

Conclusion of The Gangster Film Legacy

The 2000s will be remembered for its dark and gritty mafia sagas, its edgy indie crime thrillers and its hyper-violent revisionist takes on classic gangster films. Al Pacino in Scarface, Guy Ritchie in Snatch, Martin Scorsese in The Gangs of New York, Quentin Tarantino in Inglorious Basterds and many others helped shape and define gangster movies for the 21st century.
But the 2000s also carried its own unique cinematic vision. Directors like David Cronenberg, Harmony Korine, James Gray and Nicolas Winding Refn pushed the boundaries of genre filmmaking and helped create a new wave of gangster films that were both thrilling and thought provoking. As we look towards the future, we can only hope that these cinematic masters will continue to blaze a new trail, and help redefine the gangster movie genre for generations to come.

Vicki Strouth is a life-long film enthusiast, having grown up watching classic cinema in her childhood. She has since gone on to pursue writing about films and movie news, with her work being published on various online platforms. She is passionate about supporting independent filmmakers and highlighting important stories from around the world. She has also written a successful book about classic movies from Hollywood's Golden Age era. Vicki currently lives in Seattle, where she continues to explore films of all genres and eras.

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