Mother of Mercy! Talking Tough and Packing Heat, Hollywood's Mobsters Again Move in on the Nation's Theaters

updated 10/01/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/01/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

There's a theory in Hollywood that when the going gets tough, the tough go to mob movies. "It's proven that in difficult times, gangster movies make good escapist films, "says Martin A. Grove, film analyst for The Hollywood Reporter. The Depression ushered in classics like Searface, which set the standard for stylish shoot-'em-ups. 'Today, in this oil-jittery autumn, there are six mob movies already out or coming soon to the big screen. Is this the end of Rico? Hardly: Three Bugsy Siegel projects are in the works, Dust in Hoffman will essay Billy Bathgate, and Jack Nicholson is eyeing the title role in Hoffa. Here's a bullet-holes-and-all guide to the movies you can't refuse:

Miller's Crossing

Godfather: Albert Finney (above).
Plot: Leo (Finney), the local crime boss, discovers his protege, Tom (Gabriel Byrne), has been dallying with his woman and banishes him from the 'family." Tom takes up with Leo's rival, and the bullets fly.
Body count: 12.
Femme fatale: Marcia Gay Harden.
Most unusual lethal weapon: fireplace shovel.
Mystery symbol: a hat.
Gangster argot: What's the rumpus? (What's up?)
Best nickname: Rug Daniels (his toupee is stolen after he's shot).
Cost: $ 14 million.
Buzz: By Joel and Ethan Coen (Raising Arizona, Blood Simple), this is the highbrow's gangster movie.

State of Grace

Godfather: Ed Harris.
Plot: Hell's Kitchen native Terry Noonan (Sean Penn, left) goes back to the old neighborhood, where he becomes torn between his loyalties to his chums in the Westies gang and his duty as an undercover cop.
Body count: 11.
Femme fatale: Robin (The Princess Bride) Wright (Penn's offscreen love interest).
Seeing double: John (Do the Right Thing) Turturro, who plays cop Charlie, is double-dealer Bernie Bernbaum in Miller's Crossing.
Shortest fuse: Gary (Sidand Nancy) Oldman (right).
Buzz: Penn's most memorable performance since The Falcon and the Snowman.


Godfather: Paul Sorvino.
Plot: Henry Hill (Ray Liotta, left), an Irish-Sicilian Brooklyn, N.Y., boy, started running errands for the mob at age 11. Based on Nicholas Pileggi's best-seller Wiseguy, this true-life account follows Hill's criminal activities from the mean streets—with Jimmy "the Gent" Conway (Robert De Niro, center)—to the Feds' witness-protection program 30 years later.
Body count: 15.
Femme fatale: Lorraine (The Dream Team) Bracco.
Most $%¢&* per sentence: Joe (Lethal Weapon II) Pesci.
Gangster argot: to whack (kill), as in, "They whacked Tommy."
Cost: $25 million.
Buzz: Expected to shoot it out for Best Picture and Best Director (Martin Scorsese).

The Krays (Oct. 12)

Godmother: Billie Whitelaw.
Plot: Based on fact. In the 1960s, London's underworld was ruled by two charismatic twins, Ronnie and Reggie Kray (Spandau Ballet's Gary and Martin Kemp, left), who struck fear in the East End until their arrest in 1969.
Body count: 2.
Most sadistic weapon: saber.
Femme fatale: Kate Hardie.
Homme fatale: Gary Love.
Meanest mobster: Jack "the Hat" McVitic (Tom Bell), who pushes his wife out of a moving car.
Cost: $6 million.
Buzz: A gangster movie the way Masterpiece Theatre would do it—the thugs take tea with Mum.

Godfather Part III (Dec. 25)

Godfather: Al Pacino.
Plot: It's 1979; Michael Corleone (Pacino. right) is in his 60s and suffering from diabetes and pangs of conscience. His business interests are now legit. Looking for a successor, Michael taps Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia, left), his brothers illegitimate son.
Femme fatale: Bridget Fonda.
Missing player: Robert Duvall.
Best cameo: Don Novello (Saturday Night Live'?, Father Guido Sarducci) plays Michael's flack.
Cost: $50 million.
Buzz: Could win Best Picture Oscar, giving the trilogy a sweep.

King of New York (Sept. 28)

Godfather: Christopher Walken.
Plot: Frank White (Walken, above), a drug kingpin and psychotic killer, fancies himself a modern-day Robin Hood as he robs, kills and maims his enemies to raise money to save an inner-city hospital.
Body count: 30 and counting.
Femme fatale: Janet Julian.
Seeing double: Steve Buscemi, who plays the thug Moses, is the gay gangster Mink in Miller's Crossing. Toughest mamas: White's two female bodyguards.
Best cameo: Singer Freddy Jackson.
Cost: $8 million.
Buzz: The gangster as a humanitarian scenario doesn't work.

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