What is it about the gangster face? Not so long ago, we ran an excellent video essay by Nelson Carvajal that celebrated the brash, tough, hypnotic, quintessentially macho quality of "gangster culture" in film. Now, Jorge Luengo has posted a piece digging into similar territory but with a narrower focus: the face. The alternately calm and monstrous face of Robert DeNiro’s Al Capone in The Untouchables. Or his affable but menacing face as James Conway in Goodfellas. Or… the grizzled visage of Jack Nicholson as Frank Costello in The Departed. Or the near-theatrically sad, almost noble face of Marlon Brando’s Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather. Or Al Pacino’s twitching, ever-animate countenance as Tony Montana in Scarface. Or, reaching back a little, Warren Beatty’s handsome Clyde Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde. Or James Cagney’s craggy Rocky Sullivan in Angels with Dirty Faces. Strung together with the ubiquitous "Little Green Bag" song from Reservoir Dogs, this piece truly makes one reflect on the face of the gangster, in every sense of that phrase. So what is it, I ask again, that’s so fascinating here? Is it the fact that we can’t be entirely certain what lies beneath that face? Or is it that the gangster isn’t sure either?
Watch: The Gangster Face in 50 Movies: A Compilation