BADFELLAS – 1990: The Year of the Crime Movie

A quarter century ago, Hollywood was in a criminal state of mind. The year 1990 marks perhaps the banner year for crime movies. All kinds of nefarious activity was displayed on the silver screen that year with the Mob as the biggest offenders. Yet there were also crooked cops, psycho neighbors, con artists, and rich husbands maybe offing their wives.

The king of crime movies in 1990 belongs to Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas, an absolute genre classic that rivals the quality of the first two Godfather pictures. It inexplicably lost the Best Picture Oscar to Dances with Wolves. It shouldn’t have.

Speaking of the Godfather, perhaps the most anticipated Mafia tale that year was The Godfather Part III, which came out sixteen years after the second entry. It did not match expectations but it did still score a Best Picture nod. I still maintain it isn’t a bad movie at all yet just pales in comparison to what came before it. Like nearly all films do.

The Coen Brothers were in on the Mob mentality with Miller’s Crossing, an offbeat and beautifully filmed tale that has since become a genre classic. If your knowledge of Coen crime pics is limited to Fargo and No Country for Old Men, do yourself a favor and view this.

Like Miller’s Crossing, Irish gangsters populate State of Grace, Phil Joanou’s worthwhile effort that stars Sean Penn, Ed Harris, Gary Oldman, and Robin Wright. It’s worth a look.

Finally on the gangster tip, English mobsters get their turn in Peter Medak’s critically lauded The Krays. It may be tough to find, but it’s solid.

One year before Nino Brown became one of the most notorious movie drug dealers since Tony Montana, Christopher Walken killed it as Frank White in the cult classic King of New York. The solid supporting cast includes Laurence Fishburne and Snipes himself.

Not one, not two, but three 1990 flicks focused on crooked cops and they’re worth watching. Bad cop pic #1 is Sidney Lumet’s Q&A. Nick Nolte is said bad cop. Bad cop pic #2 is Mike Figgis’s Internal Affairs with Richard Gere as the crooked boy in blue. Bad cop pic #3 is Miami Blues with Alec Baldwin in one of his most interesting and creepy roles.

Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening earned Oscar nominations in the darkly funny The Grifters, which also comes highly recommended. John Cusack costars.

Jeremy Irons won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Claus Von Bulow in the true life story Reversal of Fortune. Glenn Close costars as wife Sunny.

As for Best Actress, it was Kathy Bates as an author’s crazed #1 fan in Rob Reiner’s claustrophobic and effective Misery, based on the Stephen King bestseller.

Speaking of psychos, Michael Keaton turns in a supremely creepy performance as the tenant from hell in Pacific Heights.

And before recent commercials showed us a funny Creepy Rob Lowe, there really was one in the underrated Bad Influence, with James Spader.

Oh there’s more. Jack Nicholson returning to his private eye role he made famous in the classic Chinatown with its long delayed sequel The Two Jakes.

Kevin Costner battling Mexican crime lord Anthony Quinn in Tony Scott’s Revenge.

The Dennis Hopper directed film noir The Hot Spot with Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen, and Jennifer Connelly.

Desperate Hours, a remake of a Humphrey Bogart thriller starring Mickey Rourke and Anthony Hopkins, a year before he became an international sensation in The Silence of the Lambs.

Harrison Ford as a lawyer who may or may not have murdered his mistress in the taut Alan J. Pakula pic Presumed Innocent.

All of these crime laden tales are worth seeing if you haven’t done so. And it serves as a reminder of the glorious illegality occurring on the screen 25 years ago.

 

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