As moviegoers prepare for Johnny Depp's John Dillinger facing off against Christian Bale's FBI man Melvin Purvis in "Public Enemies," the mob is on the mind - so here, for your debating pleasure, are 10 of the greatest "trouble boys" to ever grace the screen, small or big. And before you snatch your gats to drill this jingle-brained finkeloo, nibble one and pipe the rules: These are mobsters, as in members of highly organized crime syndicates, not just criminals who are well organized (sorry, Robert De Niro in "Heat"), free agents (such as Dillinger's gang) or lugs with bean-shooters (sorry, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in "Bonnie and Clyde" and James Cagney in "White Heat"). All silk so far?
10 Roman Moroni (Richard Dimitri, "Johnny Dangerously"):
Just as Al Capone went to the big house for income-tax evasion, the malevolently malapropping Moroni ("You fargin sneaky bastage ... bunch of fargin iceholes") was convicted of murdering ... the English language. The headlines blared his punishment: "Moroni Deported to Sweden. Says He's Not From There."
9 Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci, "GoodFellas (Two-Disc Special Edition)"):
Martin Scorsese's masterwork may be the greatest mobster movie ever, mostly because of his gripping direction. The cocaine freak-out sequence should be taught in film-school editing classes. Pesci's Tommy, with the deadliest case of short man's disease this side of Kim Jong Il, made lines such as, "Funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?" part of the tough-guy lexicon.
8 Al Capone (Robert De Niro, "The Untouchables (Special Collector's Edition)"):
"I want him dead! I want his family dead! ... I want to go there in the middle of the night and piss on his ashes!" Chicago's poet laureate, David Mamet, was the perfect guy to write the screenplay, and De Niro, in yet another stunningly transformative performance, was the last guy you'd want pacing behind you with a baseball bat.
7 Sonny Corleone (James Caan, "The Godfather - The Coppola Restoration"):
The trash-can beating he administered to his brother-in-law is a classic. Viewers suffered tollbooth phobia that had nothing to do with misplaced FasTrak passes for years after witnessing Sonny's fate (which Mad magazine attributed to his trying to pay with a large bill). Bonus points: The DVD includes a great Easter egg (hidden feature) of Caan doing a Marlon Brando impersonation.
6 Nikolai Luzhin (Viggo Mortensen, "Eastern Promises (Widescreen Edition)"):
If you had never seen Mortensen before this film, you'd think he was that guy, that the filmmakers had just pulled some Russian dude out of a high-end London nightclub. Equal parts preening macho narcissist and cold-blooded hatchet man, he tops even "Borat" for best naked fight.
5 Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro, "The Godfather Part II - The Coppola Restoration"):
The up-and-coming De Niro was picking up the origin story of an already-iconic character that had won an Oscar for an iconic actor (Marlon Brando in "The Godfather"), and he had to do it in Sicilian, a dialect he had learned just a few years before for another film. His portrayal is not only feeling, thinking and reactive, but it also creates a bridge to Brando's work that brilliantly illustrates the character's evolution.
4 Bill "The Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis, "Gangs of New York (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)"):
One of the great screen villains, which we can now see as Daniel Plainview with one more pin of civility removed. A movie monster on the order of Hannibal Lecter, but with a heart and that disturbing false eye. There is, by the way, no truth to the Internet rumor that Day-Lewis was originally to play "Priest" Vallon to Robert De Niro's Bill.
3 Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini, "The Sopranos - The Complete Series"):
The best TV mobster ever. Like Vito Corleone, a multilayered family man - but he's more flawed and real. Bonus points: There's a classic Easter egg in the bonus disc of the original "Godfather" set in which Tony and the boys try to watch a bootleg copy of the 1972 movie.
2 Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando, "The Godfather - The Coppola Restoration"):
Brando gets the nod over De Niro's portrayal of the title character because of the older version's dark mystery and the already arrived quality of the kindly patriarch, who also made people wet their pants in fear. The improvised orange-in-the-mouth ape scene alone, in the greater context of the head of the Corleone crime family, is enough for enshrinement here.
1 Tony Montana (Al Pacino, "Scarface (Widescreen Anniversary Edition)"):
One of the rare ultra-violent movies that women love as much as men do. Its excesses are its successes, from the nosedive into a molehill of yayo to the chain-saw-in-the-shower scene. But the true test of this performance's greatness is to imagine its famous lines delivered by someone - anyone - else. Could even Daniel Day-Lewis or Denzel Washington or Robert De Niro have so unforgettably spat out, "Say hello to my little friend"? No, there is no one else who could have quite pulled off that haircut, that suit, that accent, that je ne sais quoi. It's Pacino waaaay over the top, where he belongs. And considering the character's lingering cultural impact, especially in hip-hop, it surpasses even the Godfather himself. So take a look at the bad guy. You won't see his kind again.
Runners-up: Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson, "Pulp Fiction"), Don Logan (Ben Kingsley, "Sexy Beast"), Furio Giunta (Federico Castelluccio, "The Sopranos - The Complete Series"), Bugsy Malone (Scott Baio, "Bugsy Malone"), Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington, "American Gangster (2-Disc Unrated Extended Edition)") and Tony Blundetto (Steve Buscemi, "The Sopranos - The Complete Series").
Thanks to Michael Ordona
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