Picks and Pans Main: Screen

updated 09/24/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/24/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

State of Grace is only the latest manifestation of our national obsession with organized crime—or at least with films about it. We already have My Blue Heaven, which treats Mob types less as social parasites than as lovable bumblers, like kids whose big transgression is window waxing on Halloween. Coming are such cinematic treatments of organized crime as GoodFellas, Godfather III and Miller's Crossing. What does this preoccupation say about us (other than that as moviemakers and moviegoers, we aren't brimming with imagination)? Gangster films have been a staple since the days of Bogart, Cagney and Muni, of course, but the first Godfather tacked a genteel facade onto the Mob, as if honor were really as common among thieves as greed. The Freshman nicely lampoons the whole business, including Hollywood's fascination with gangsters. Too often, though, instead of heroes we have lots of protagonists (and not a few incidental characters) who are professional criminals, not judged by their virtue or pathetic lack thereof but by how discreetly they achieve their ambitions.

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