Iconic Crime Movies

We have heard stories of Pablo Escobar and like-minded criminals, stories which have left us with more questions than answers,  in which we try to figure out what exactly goes on inside criminals’ minds. This quest to understand the psychology of criminals is on one part the reason why crime movies exist. The other part is produced by our own far-fetched imaginations of trying to reap where we did not sow, whether a movie emanates from a realistic portrayal of a real-life criminal or just from mere imagination, the thrill, suspense and enjoyment it brings to viewers is comparable to none. The excitement is further reinforced if the movie has a gambling plot or sub-plots which depicts it as realistic amongst movie fanatics. There are many crime movies set within the gambling world and this article aims to see how they compare with each other.

Many like to call it a game of chance (gambling), but is it really that plain and simple, one player having good fortune and the other player bad fortune? The evidence tends to suggest otherwise. From classics like ‘The Gambler’, and ‘The Hustler’ to more contemporary movies like ‘Casino Royale’ gambling is never portrayed as a game of chance, at least not wholly. Action-filled scenes with rival gangs exchanging blows or bullets, the good guys playing cat and mouse with the bad guys or a cunning con artist doing the most daring and unthinkable acts are the most popular crime movies. Crime movies inspired by the lives of gamblers certainly follow the same themes, in that they are all centered on the insatiable quest for power, the power emanating from greed. All the movies which feature prominently on favorite’s lists like ‘The Gambler’, ‘The Hustler’, ‘Rounders’, ‘California Split’ and ‘The Cincinnati Kid’ amongst others have a protagonist who gains or at least tries to gain power and wealth through calculated moves which always crosses the line of an antagonist, lady luck playing no part.

For many of these crime movies, the similarities seem to end within the themes. Arguably, the greatest crime movies to date, ‘The Gambler’ and ‘Casino’ have two totally different plots though both have the same central theme. In the ‘The Gambler’, James Caan, a professor allows his obsession for gambling to destroy his life’s work. He breaks the support wall around him by excessively borrowing from his girl and mother and puts his life in danger by borrowing from the worst kind of loan sharks. In as much as we criticise the bad choices taken by Caan in his life, we at the same sympathise with him due to his failure in managing his addiction. ‘Casino’ on the other hand follows the life of a civilised casino owner who befriends a long-time friend after their ambitions cross path. These two classics truly highlight the brutal and cruel life of crime that gambling can expose a man to. Choosing one from these two is extremely difficult if not impossible, the best solution is to watch both and make your own assessment.

In everything that crime movies share, there is one particular aspect that the movie, ‘California Split’ doesn’t share with all others. The special aspect is its ability to portray the gambling world (poker world, particularly) in real-life circumstances. The movie, unlike all others, does not over-glamourise the game or the players. The scenes whereby players stake ridiculous large sums of money are not overly evident in the movie. The movie tries to portray real people staking normal sums of money and lady luck in some instances helping them take home a substantial amount of money, but not the ‘let it rain’ type we see in other movies. The movie is a must watch for all who want the real experience of a poker room.

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