Friendship and Loyalty in Crime Films
Published 20 Apr 2017
There are many genres of genres of film like, horror, sci-fi, feel good, romance, etc. But probably out of the vast range of genres, the crime genre is the one which is loved by many. It is just ironic how people love a genre about something they utterly detest, crime and violence. It is very notable that there are several movies of this genre that had achieved popular status, some are even considered as legendary. To name some of some of them: The Godfather (1972), The Public Enemy (1931), Layer Cake (2004), The Third Man (1949). There should be definitely something that makes these movies popular. Generally, a crime movie that is just sprinkled with senseless violence would not be regarded as a good crime movie. These great crime movies are beyond that, they narrative and the conflict are certainly of profound levels. And to make a movie profound, it should be talking about something that could be understood by humanity. It should be something that everyone could relate to. One of these humanizing elements is the concept of friendship.
Friendship seems to be a common theme of crime movies. The portrayal of friendship could range from friends remaining loyal to each other, to friends betraying each other. Within the context of friendship, loyalty is certainly a key component. Loyalty is what determines the nature of the friendship.
It could be said that in the context of crime movies, friendship is something portrayed as a double-edged concept. It is something that could either make or break a criminal. In the context of a civilian’s life, friendsthip is soemthing viewed as something very positive. But in world of criminals, having friends could either be advantageous or disadvantageous.
In the Godfather, the head of a Hollywood studio, Jack Woltz, was friends with Corleone’s family. Don Corleone’s grandson Johnny Fontane, was an aspiring actor, so he asked the producer to cast his grandson for a movie.
The producer had disagreed to give the Don’s grandson a part in the movie—something that he should have thought over twice. The Don uttered one of his famous lines “I’ll make him an offer that he can’t refuse.” And soon, a hitman was dispatched and Woltz wakes up with his prized half a million horse decapitated in the bed with him. It is juts understandable that the movie producer would give in.
In that particular scenario, we could see the movie producer’s and the mafia leader’s friendship. The movie producer may have thought that he could have many benefits from befriending a mafia leader. In a sense, we could consider the movie producer as a user of friends. Utterly, their friendship is far from being intimate.
When Michael was sent away to another country for the purpose of protecting him from the brewing clan wars, he was attended to by a family friend. Michael was not required to pay for anything during his stay. This is one positive aspect of that the movie had portrayed friendship in a more positive light.
There are many quotes from The Godfather and its sequel that makes the story a friendship-driven narrative: “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” and “at this moment, all we have is our friendship.”
In a contemporary crime film “Layer Cake”, friendship had also been described as a relationship wherein loyalty does not exist. The protagonist, XXXX, played by Daniel Craig, was a cocaine dealer working for two bosses. XXXX was never loyal to both his bosses, he was just loyal to himself. This further strengthens the argument that genuine friendship could not exists in the criminal world.
Though friendship was hard to locate in the gangster movie The Public Enemy, it had still a large impact in the plot. The movie had shown us how strong or fragile friendships could be in the gangster context. The term “family” is even used to address a fellow gang member. If a fellow gang member is hit, all of the family would like to strike back.
It is just understandable that this is how gangsters would shape their double-edged concept of friendship. It would be negative because they have their own selfish intentions of entering the gang. It could be slightly positive because gang members are willing to kill and die for other members.
Moreover, criminals had put themselves into the dark world of crime and violence. This world is isolated from the rest of the world. Criminals are also feared and hated individuals, that is why they are exiled from the rest of the society. They will always be secluded in the world that is very different with civilians. They are the only ones who could understand themselves. And just likely, they are the only ones who could be friends. The differences of the criminal world and the normal world are extremely profound. The civilian world just cannot accept the existence of the criminal world.
Because of the prevalence of crime movies, it is not unknown to us that the context of the criminal world is very different from the normal world. And with that being said, it is just understandable that they would shape their concept of friendship also in a different manner. If their toys are guns and communication would be violence, it is only them who could understand each other. But what could be considered remarkable about the criminal world’s view of friendship is that they are willing to kill and die for someone they call a friend.
In some respects, a friendship that is forged in the world of crime could arguably stronger than the normal context of friendship. Betrayal is something normal in the criminal world. It is something that they have to be avoided or it could mean one’s life. It is something that every criminal is very capable of, they are considered heartless after all. That is why genuine friendship is hard to develop by criminals. There would be lots of challenges, bullets, money, time, before a genuine friendship could be determined. And once a genuine friendship is found, a friendship of criminals could arguably be one version of friendship that could be considered one of the strongest, and shall I say, deadly.
- The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, 1972.
- The Public Enemy, directed by William Wellman, 1931.
- Layer Cake, directed by Matthew Vaughn, 2004.
- The Third Man, directed by Carol Reed, 1949