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More MASS: Celebrating The Warner Bros. Gangster Movie

By Todd Sokolove

Black Mass left me wanting more.

Not necessarily in the same way that fellow Forces of Geek columnist Benn Robbins felt. You can check out his review here.

The new movie chronicling the rising to capturing of James “Whitey” Bulger yet made me want to marathon more mafia. Actually, I would gladly sit through the supposed original three hour cut of this film. Its performances are fascinating, the story stranger than fiction, and its style is supported by a legacy of Warner Bros gangster films.

He’s definitely justified in saying that Scorsese did it better in Goodfellas and The Departed. But I look at Black Mass as a grand entry in the gangster genre filmography that Warner Bros founded in the 1930s and continues to this day.

Here are just some of the Warner Bros gangster films which clearly influenced the style and structure of this latest release from the studio. If you can’t get enough mafia moviegoing, any of them would make for a great double feature with Black Mass.

Similar attributes listed…

The Public Enemy

  • Chronicles the rise of a criminal underworld.
  • Girlfriend/significant other treated like crap.
  • Brotherly drama and a mom with a heart of gold.


  • Less gangster-glorifying approach to material.
  • FBI’s side of the story.

Mean Streets

  • Uneasy mix of gritty street-smarts with humor.
  • Religious dilemmas.
  • The city as a character (New York, rather than Boston)

Once Upon a Time in America

  • Friendships forged at childhood.
  • Loyalty betrayed by crime, lust and loss.

New Jack City

  • Brutal bursts of violence.
  • Criminal underworld basically in plain sight
  • Determined police operation to take down criminal leader.


  • Going for a ride is never just “going for a ride”
  • Insane sociopath criminal can’t be contained.
  • Subtitled “where are they now” approach to ending.

The Departed

  • Most spot-on in setting and subject (Irish Mafia in Boston), in fact the two lead characters are based on Whitey Bulger and John Connolly.
  • Double crossings and red herrings attack the characters as much as the audience watching the film.

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