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Once Upon A Time In America – Sergio Leone (1984)

Trying to find good films on Netflix, I found an IMDb list with high rated films on Netflix. Of course not all of those are available on Netflix in my country. Also of course, this mostly concerns ‘classics’ and that is exactly what “Once Upon…” is.

In a massive length of almost four hours, the story is told of a group of Jewish criminals in New York who work themselves up from petty criminals to big maffia shots. From the start the group had competition and in this line of ‘work’, competition is a treat.

In a slow pace with quite a cast, Leone tells the story while jumping back and forth in time. The film begins with a violent settlement of business. In the following hours we learn about “Noodles” (Robert de Niro), Max (James Woods), their buddies and their foes.

Of course something happened that triggered the violence, but things are not as they initially seem. Having to come back at the events of 35 years ago, the actual story slowly unfolds for the viewer.

“Once Upon A Time In America” is a descent maffia drama with a few violent outbursts.

Yakuza And The Family – Michihito Fujii (2020)

  • crime
  • 12 February 202212 February 2022

Available on Netflix as “A Family”. It is a very descent, Japanese maffia film.

Kenji is a bit of a petty criminal who by some accident stumbles into one of the two maffia families in his home town after his father dies. The father of that family becomes a surrogate father for Kenji.

The film jumps through Kenji’s life in big strides. We see him as a young man, showing how he became part of the Yakuza. Years later an incident has him put in jail for 14 years and then we jump to the time he got out. The world has changed drastically and being connected to the maffia is no longer prestige, but a massive stain on a person.

The film goes from a bit of a crime thriller towards a drama which is also how the feeling of the story itself develops.

As I said, the film is very descent. Nice peeks into Japanese (criminal) culture, good atmosphere, great camera work. I will have to see what other films Fujii has available.

Gotham (series) – Bruno Heller (2014-2019)

This has been long ‘in the watching’. Some years ago I was looking for a ‘filler up series’. Something to watch when I had 45 minutes to spare. I figured a “Batman” theme series would be nicely gloomy.

“Gotham” is a ‘prequel’ to the Batman franchise. The main character in the five seasons is not really Bruce Wayne, but rather “GCPD” officer James/Jim Gordon. Gordon wants to do everything correct, but this makes him both a hero as an enemy to many. All this shifting between him being the good guy and the bad guy is not really worked out that well in my opinion.

Of course there is Bruce Wayne. Just as in the movies, he is usually accompanied by his “butler” Alfred Pennyworth. In the first seasons, Wayne is a winy little brat, a bit of a drama queen. Actually this remains mostly so as the series continue. In general, his character is not worked out well enough to carry the series.

The series have characters that you will know from the films. The “catwoman” actually has a name in the series: Selina Kyle who develops a bit of a love/hate relationship with Wayne.

The series contain some themes that are (somewhat) familiar. The authors have tried to ‘foreshadow’ elements from the films. To fill up the episodes there are also a whole range of fairly boring bad guys who want James Gordon dead. These storylines are as unlikely or thin as the next and sometimes they appear and disappear when enough episodes have been filled.

A few characters undergo massive character changes, especially Gordons first girlfriend Barbara Kean, which is not always wildly interesting, but which sure brings a red thread to the series. Worked out better is “Penguin” (Oswald Cobblepot). Quite overdone, but sometimes nicely so, “The Riddler” (Edward Nygma).

In any case, way towards the end, the bridge to Batman is made. “Gotham” as a series is about the city where Batman rose before he did. The series are not great, but not bad enough to stop watching either.

Duisburg Linea Di Sangue – Enzo Monteleone (2019)

  • crime
  • 28 July 202128 July 2021

This Italian Netflix crime is not bad, but made so little impression that I almost forgot to review it.

In Duisburg, Germany, a maffia killing takes place. Italy sends an investigator to prevent the Germans from making faulty conclusions and hurt Italy’s name. The German colleague conveniently speaks Italian, so even though a large part of the film takes place in Germany, the film is spoken in Italian.

The film revolves around the idea that outside Italy people, including law enforcement, do not understand the maffia, the way they work and the way they think.

And so the German/Italian duo sets out to find the shooters, each with their own experience, but learning from the other.

Not bad, not great. Amusing is a part that plays in the Netherlands.

The Valhalla Murders – Thordur Palsson (series 2019)

A Netflix Scandinavian crime from Iceland. “The Valhalla Murders” is quite a typical Scandinavian crime too.

In a not unseen story, recent killings can be traced back to maltreatment of children in an institute in the past. The small Reykjavik police force, later joined by even smaller force from in other Icelandic towns, set out to catch a killer on the loose. The story unfolds, has a few obligatory plot twists and new suspects and a wee bit of violence.

The series are shot in the snowy season, so Iceland really looks like an icy land. The acting, as the story, is alright.

Not a high-flyer, but a descent and moody Scandinavian crime series.

Kill the Irishman – Jonathan Hensleigh (2011)

Also known as “Bulletproof Gangster”, this film tells the true story of Danny Greene. In the 1970’ies Greene is an American laborer of Irish descent. Not afraid for anyone he works himself up to being head of the union he works for.

Power getting to his head, Greene and his buddies enrich themselves and go against their peers causing Greene to be dropped. So he tries his luck in criminal activities.

In doing so, Greene encounters the local (Cleveland) maffia of whom is also is not afraid. Perhaps he better should. A feud develops and Greene proves to be a cat with nine lives.

In a format known by now, the film shows original footage through the film which makes a bit of a documentary style film. The film is amusing and has a few big names on the actors list.

Lilyhammer (series)

Some time ago I was looking for a somewhat lighter series to watch and I ran into “Lilyhammer” on Netflix.

The main character is played by Steven van Zandt whom “Sopranos” watchers (which I am not) will know. He plays the Brooklyn mafioso Frank Tagliano who testifies against his former associates and moves to Lillehammer, Norway and takes the name Johnny Hendrickson, because he was impressed by the winter Olympics held in that place. Another main actor in the series is Trond Fausa who we have met before in “The Bothersome Man“.

Johnny is used to getting his way and he has got several ways of persuasion. Norway is a whole different game though, but Johnny manages to blend his old nature with his new.

The series are made by mostly Norwegians and is largely spoken in Norwegian too. It makes fun of the Norwegian way of life with its extremely social system, men in healthcare, immigration policies, etc. Then there is the blunt approach of Johnny who is a heartily man to the people he likes, but you do not want him as your enemy.

Johnny opens a club which allows the creators to put in quite some music in the series. Besides his club, Johnny puts his fingers in about every pudding that comes by. These situation make fairly thin (and usually short) story-lines which are only to make a couple of jokes in a few episodes.

The series are amusing. Van Zandt is a funny guy and the enlarged differences between American and Norwegian ways of handling things is amusing too.

Not a high-flyer, but if you are looking for something light. Three seasons was quite on the edge for me though.

Journal 64 – Christoffer Boe (2018)

Apparently there is a “Department Q” series of Danish films. We meet the same couple as in “Kvinden I Buret” that you can see on the cover. Carl Mørck is the grumpy detective and Assad plans to move to another vocation. Of course the two have a last case.

A gruesome find is done in an apartment. Mørck steals the case from a colleague and he hauls in his partner-for-only-one-more-week Assad.

The film jumps back and forth in time. We find an institution for girls in the past which somehow connects to the find in the apartment. Of course Mørck and Assad find that connection and go after the bad guys.

The story involves a past that may well be historical and the somewhat extravagant present may be somewhat far fetched, but also shows present tendencies.

The film is an alright Scandinavian crime thriller.

Kill Me Three Times – Kriv Stenders (2014)

  • crime
  • 25 September 202025 September 2020

Something light. A bit of a “Fargo” type black humor action film.

Charlie Wolfe is a hitman and he is asked for a job in a rural community. For most the situation does not exactly go as hoped, and Wolfe navigates between all parties to get the most out of it for himself.

Amusing, not great.

Mean Streets – Martin Scorsese (1973)

I may be old, but I am not as old as this film! This old Scorsese is available on Netflix.

“Mean Streets” has a very young Harvey Keitel, Robert de Niro and other actors that made name later.

The story seems to play at the lowest layer of New York mafia. The youngsters are set to collect money from restaurants, rough up some people here and there, selling drugs and -of course- trying to work themselves up the ladder.

The result is an amusing crime film, not about mafia big shots as you see most often, but the lives like those of most people who grew up in these surroundings.