I watched American Gangster the other night, and not too long ago, The Departed. Both have garnered critical praise and award nominations and have stellar casts. Who doesn't love Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg?
These movies bored me out of my ever-loving mind.
With the economies and political systems of large swaths of the world dominated by "gangs" or "clans," Americans have little new or interesting to say about the inner workings of the modern criminal operation. American filmmakers are still telling the stories of dirty cops, feisty gangsters from the 'hood or the Italian or Irish mafias. Snooze.
When I hear the words "American Gangster," I yawn. When I hear "Russian Oligarch" I start to pay attention. The material is so rich and as yet, unexplored.
So why isn't anyone making gangster movies about Russia, the Caucasus or Central Asia, where entire economic and political systems are clan-based kleptocracies, or Afghanistan, Lebanon or Iraq where violent tribalism governs every aspect of life? It seems to me that good stories about how criminal enterprises supplant rule of law and shape human behavior would come from these places, rather than boring old America or Europe.
America is not a complete creative wasteland when it comes to portraying lawlessness, however. As I've written here in the past, Deadwood was the best characterization of life in a chaotic boom town that I've ever come across.