Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta.

6. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)

I find gangster movies in general cause a conflict within me. As a critical thinking person I realize that the violence and mayhem inherent in these films is supposed to be negative. The viewer is supposed to be repulsed. But as a man who wishes he were gangsta I invariably find myself rooting for the hero(anti-hero). I end up saying things like “that’s what he gets for fuckin with his shit”, and “fuck him up”. I end up feeling the same way when I watch westerns too. Dudes shooting each other is just plain cool.

I am not sure what to do with these feelings. I mean I have only been in one fight in my life(in grade 4), and that ended with being run over with a bike. I am generally non-violent, and have some pacifist tendencies. Sometimes I want to punch people in the face, but the key thing is I don’t. So why am I so enthralled by Tony Carmonte, Tom Powers, and Michael Corleone? I think it has to do with their ambition. They see what they want, and they go for it. It’s Horatio Alger with gunplay. I contrast that with my general meekness and insecurity and I am inspired to maybe do the same thing, although with fewer gunshots.

What we have in Michael Corleone is a character ascending(or descending) to the top of underworld. We see him firstly as a straight arrow who just come out of the army and wants to stay out of the family business. He is devoted to his wife. But as circumstances around him change, namely the hit attempt on Don Corleone, he is drawn in. His rise to power is swift and violent but we sympathize and even envy him because he is badass. His relationship with his wife is strained by the challenges of running a criminal empire but we still see him as a “good” guy. I am not sure if it’s even possible to make a gangster movie like this without these feelings coming up. Michael’s a compelling and complex dude, but because he is the focus we see the escalating gang war through his eyes, he is the one who is being done wrong. Even though he is a criminal we see him as virtuous.

The only point really in the entire film where I find myself appalled by Michael is the final scene when he lies to his wife about killing Carlo. The fact that the film ends with him having just lied to his wife, and her believing him is kind of shattering of trust. Just like he broke his wife’s trust, he breaks our trust. I don’t fully understand why I responded so much to that scene.

I guess the simple answer is that shooting people and protecting your “shit” so-to-speak is “gangsta” and inspirational, but lying to your wife is wrong. I would make a great husband and/or mob boss. I watch the movie good.

On filmaffinity.com I gave the film 9/10. I swore at the t.v. which signifies an emotional response, and it made me feel (and talk) “gangsta”. The only thing holding it from being a 10 is that I haven’t re-watched it(I purposely under-rate films I have only watched once, just so I don’t look stupid upon further reflection).

One response to “Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta.

  1. Great post, I understand what you are saying. I’ve watched a lot of gangster films this year (the godfather, scarface, public enemy, white heat) and as a guy many times the violence seems very cool. But I think the most important thing is to understand that their just movies. Most people have boring lives and we are interested in gangster films with a lot of violence blood and killing but the key is not to do that in real life. I many times wished I could be Michael Corleone or Tony Montana but their lives suck. Who really wants to be like Michael he lies to his wife and killed his own brother. He has a horrible life. Michael’s depressed all the time and always thinking about somebody is going to kill him. While Montana’s life seems great at first but in the end he kills his best friend and his own sister.

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