Thursday, August 07, 2008

Pop Culture Portrayals of the Mob in Tampa

•"GoodFellas" (1990) Tampa is featured in one of the best gangster movies. The mobsters played by Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro are sent from New York to get money from a man in Tampa. The short segment begins with the pair beating the man in a car, then taking him to the "Tampa City Zoo" and holding him over the lion cages. "They must really feed each other to the lions down there, because the guy gave the money right up," says Liotta.

•"The Punisher" (2004) John Travolta plays a ruthless crime lord who orders the death of FBI Agent Frank Castle's family - and then pays the price when Castle becomes the hero, The Punisher. Part of that price is getting dragged through a parking lot off Ashley Drive in downtown.

•"White Shadow." This 2006 novel by former Tampa Tribune reporter Ace Aktins provides a fictional account of Tampa during the life of Charlie Wall, the local crime king who ran things in Tampa in the 1930s and 1940s, only to eventually be moved out by Santo Trafficante Sr.

•"Donnie Brasco" (1997). The title character, played by Johnny Depp, is actually the FBI agent Joe Pistone, who infiltrates the mob. A segment of the movie depicts a trip by Brasco and Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino) to Tampa, with shots of them at the beach and the dog track. The prosecutor on the case, Kevin R. March, was from Tampa.

•"JFK" (1991). Oliver Stone's labyrinthine film about the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 mentions the mob as one of the possible suspects, and mentions Tampa mob leader Santo Trafficante Jr.

•"Ocean's Eleven" (2001). They're not exactly the mob, but Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) come to Derby Lanes in St. Petersburg to recruit Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner) for their team of thieves pulling off a heist in Las Vegas

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