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Movies With Real Life Scumbags As Protagonists. 
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Post Movies With Real Life Scumbags As Protagonists.
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Nearly every last character in it is a reprehensible excuse for a human being.


Agreed with this assessment of The Wolf Of Wall Street.

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Jordan gets sensationalized and he TORTURED thousands of people in real life. There IS real outrage over the lack of accountability.


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What about Blow? Have you seen that one? It practically begs us to feel sorry for a drug dealer whose daughter won't visit him in jail. No one seemed perturbed


I don't think that The Wolf Of Wall Street glamorizes Jordan Belfort or lets him off for what he did. It shows endless partying. But it also gives the audience credit for realizing that this endless partying is coming at the expense of many innocent people's lives and livelihoods. It doesn't force its point at the audience. As was noted elsewhere, Oliver Stone's Wall Street movie made the point explicit yet many people saw Gordon Gekko as the hero of the story.

Indeed Jordan Belfort has quite a bit in common with Henry Hill. Both are men who believe that they are owed the American Dream and they should not have to work for it. They're both willing to go to any level to keep the party going regardless of who gets hurt in the process. And at the end of the story what do they regret? That the party's over.

Indeed I've heard debates about movies with criminal or otherwise douchbaggy protagonists based on real life characters, From Bonnie And Clyde to the aforementioned Blow to last year's Pain And Gain.

In the case of Blow I remember seeing the film's director, the late Ted Demme, on Bill O'Reilly's show. O'Reilly was ripping into him for what he saw as the glorification of a criminal who destroyed many people's lives. Demme responded that nobody forced them to use that cocaine that the individual who chooses to snort it is responsible. O'Reilly came back with a dumb statement to the effect of that if nobody sold dugs there wouldn't be any users, which more or less shows that O'Reilly is ignorant of how economics work.

I can't quite put Jung and Belfort in the same category. No I didn't feel sorry for him for ending up in federal prison although if the number of years of his and Belfort's sentences were switched it would be appropriate (Jung got 30 to life if I remember correctly). But Jung provided drugs to people who wanted them while Belfort swindled innocent people. Both scumbags. Not quite in the same category.

In the case of Pain And Gain, it could be said that the movie made all the characters with the exception of Ed Harris' private investigator into scumbags, even the one played by Tony Shalhoub, while in real life the Shalhoub character was a good guy.

With movies based on real life events, there's tricky territory to navigate. I liked the approach American Hustle used at the beginning where it said that some fo the events are true and left it to the audience to find out for themselves.

I don't take anything put in a movie as gospel. To me, a movie is a story and that's how it should be judged,

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Thu Jan 02, 2014 2:04 am
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Post Re: Movies With Real Life Scumbags As Protagonists.
In the best movies, morality is simply a matter of relative context. That's the essence of cinema, in fact. Just for random example, take Southern Comfort. We know who the good guys are. There's no question. But what if the characters were in a different context? What if they were just two guys I knew at the workplace or in casual social spheres? If that were the case, I might think they were serious assholes/idiots and avoid them at all costs. But in the situation Walter Hill presents, I'm on their side. For Bullet to the Head...in real life, Stallone's character would be a criminal scumbag. In the context of the movie, he seems like a better person than his opponents.

Scorsese is good at showing the hypocrisy of people who claim to live by codes. Jordan acts like he doesn't give a shit about anything, but he clearly carries hate in his heart. His hate and resentment toward the FBI agents goes beyond them trying to nab him. He hates the idea that they can live "like schnooks" and be comfortable/happy with it. Because he himself cannot. And that's the deepest kind of hate there is. It would have been a better movie if Scorsese had developed Kyle Chandler's character. Maybe showed Chandler's own flaws and possible ulterior motives. That would give the film an extra layer that it desperately needs and doesn't have.

The great thing about Southern Comfort is that it makes you think of both perspectives. The soldiers were wrong to do what they did, but they don't deserve this. Goodfellas never expands on its own perspective. So Henry Hill thinks other people are losers? Scorsese could have demonstrated that more. He could have shown us more why the life of a loser sucks. Instead, we just kinda have to take Ray Liotta's word for it. I come out of that movie having no idea why these guys love their lives so much. Cutting in line at a restaurant? So what? What's so enviable?


Thu Jan 02, 2014 4:08 am
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Post Re: Movies With Real Life Scumbags As Protagonists.
I think it's mainly supporters of capitalism that saw Gordon Gecko as a hero(a lot of people told Michael Douglas that his performance inspired them to become stockbrokers), most others rightfully see him as a villain.

I honestly have no interest in seeing Wolf On Wall Street in theaters, but that has less to do with the subject matter and more to do with the fact that it's three hours long, which is just way too long for me to sit in a theater without getting tired and uncomfortable. Besides, i'm sure there's going to be an unrated directors cut on DVD anyways, so I might as well wait and see the film how it was originally intended to be seen.

Anyways one film I remember people complaining about because it supposedly glorified crime was the Mark Wahlberg film Contraband.

Not surprised to hear that O-Reily couldn't comprehend something like that, I feel myself getting dumber every single time he opens his mouth.


Thu Jan 02, 2014 4:24 am
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Post Re: Movies With Real Life Scumbags As Protagonists.
MGamesCook wrote:
Goodfellas never expands on its own perspective. So Henry Hill thinks other people are losers? Scorsese could have demonstrated that more. He could have shown us more why the life of a loser sucks. Instead, we just kinda have to take Ray Liotta's word for it. I come out of that movie having no idea why these guys love their lives so much. Cutting in line at a restaurant? So what? What's so enviable?


I think that's the point, homey. Indeed, the "glamour" of their life seems awfully superficial and pointless. Henry Hill is trying to convince himself as much as the viewer when he speaks of why his life is better than the "losers." It's the masterstroke of the film for me -- the wise guys end up working harder, stressing more, dying younger, etc etc -- for what? The rush of crime a few times and a stripper for a mistress?


Thu Jan 02, 2014 5:16 am
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Post Re: Movies With Real Life Scumbags As Protagonists.
I disagree with Cook's assessment of Goodfellas.

The film was released in 1990 and was probably aimed at middle-aged or slightly younger men. My Dad at the time was enthralled by it, partially because he knew what Hill was getting at. Breaking out, or rising above, the poor communities was a language all men who grew up in the 1950s or 60s understood perfectly.

It may seem dated now in an age where teenagers drive their own cars and own computers of NASA-like programming power, but a few relatively short decades ago, Hill's dream was a poignant fantasy for many, many people. And whatsmore is communicated in an incredibly vivid fashion.

The film is exceptional at selling the dream, or at least the dream of the dream.

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Thu Jan 02, 2014 5:54 am
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Post Re: Movies With Real Life Scumbags As Protagonists.
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It may seem dated now in an age where teenagers drive their own cars and own computers of NASA-like programming power


Yup, it's true. It's like the gap between rich and poor is simultaneously expanding and shrinking every day. People now who aren't rich feel they can still afford almost anything they would ever want. And if they ever do get rich, it'll be simply to buy better versions of what they already have. Materialistically, there's almost nothing to be desired anymore that you can't acquire legally and cheaply and without being rich. If you think about it, it's actually kind of freaky and bothersome.


Thu Jan 02, 2014 6:20 am
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Post Re: Movies With Real Life Scumbags As Protagonists.
I wouldn't say it was too bothersome. Depends on one's outlook I guess.

But you're right in that relative inequality will increase even as absolute wealth for everyone also increases. That's capital.

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Thu Jan 02, 2014 6:26 am
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Post Re: Movies With Real Life Scumbags As Protagonists.
Yes, it's nice when everything is in simple black and white... but, let's face it - only about 1% of the world is like that. The other 99% consists of infinite shades of grey. Still, greed, ego, and the general lure of power have been humanity's Achilles Heels since the dawn of time. People just seem to have a hard time catching themselves before completely falling off the edge of the dock... or else they're so drunk/high on their current situation they just don't want to. :? I personally can't imagine a life of prospering at the expense of countless other people, or having to keep looking over my shoulder for the remainder of my existence. That's just no way to live. :?


Thu Jan 02, 2014 8:14 am
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Post Re: Movies With Real Life Scumbags As Protagonists.
H.I. McDonough wrote:
Yes, it's nice when everything is in simple black and white... but, let's face it - only about 1% of the world is like that. The other 99% consists of infinite shades of grey. Still, greed, ego, and the general lure of power have been humanity's Achilles Heels since the dawn of time. People just seem to have a hard time catching themselves before completely falling off the edge of the dock... or else they're so drunk/high on their current situation they just don't want to. :? I personally can't imagine a life of prospering at the expense of countless other people, or having to keep looking over my shoulder for the remainder of my existence. That's just no way to live. :?


Goodfellas acknowledges those shades of grey. Hill isn't depicted as evil, just an opportunistic and dirt-poor kid who was seduced by promises of status. A status that puts to use his relative intelligence and ambition.

I've no idea what the real Hill was like, but it doesn't matter, because the Movie presents its own narrative, myth and statement.

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Thu Jan 02, 2014 8:37 am
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Post Re: Movies With Real Life Scumbags As Protagonists.
Vexer wrote:
I think it's mainly supporters of capitalism that saw Gordon Gecko as a hero(a lot of people told Michael Douglas that his performance inspired them to become stockbrokers), most others rightfully see him as a villain.

This is a good point. If anybody looked at Gekko and thought, "Gee, what a cool guy, I'd like to do what he did," those are people who probably admired that lifestyle and wanted those things in the first place, movie or no movie.

Sometimes a story is a litmus test for our views. Patton, for example, can be read in drastically different ways depending on how the viewer thinks about war. There's a certain refreshing lack of condescension there, when a movie portrays its subject in all its warts, contradictions, and shades of grey, and lets us make our decision for ourselves.

One could argue that movies that don't insist on their own point of view, that don't demand (often through the bell of a bullhorn) that we see things from just one way, are playing it safe by pleasing as many different types of people as possible. I say that's fair, but there's more than one way to skin a cat.

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Thu Jan 02, 2014 10:21 am
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Post Re: Movies With Real Life Scumbags As Protagonists.
I think the connection is looser than wanting to become Gordon Gekko, or even specifically a stockbroker.

Aston Martins are made even more popular by men who like James Bond. That is to say, men buy Aston Martins because they think it makes them a little bit more like Bond. Not that they want to risk life and limb like Bond. Or even work for MI6.

It's easy and not unreasonable to admire characteristics in people we don't necessarily want to emulate. Wall Street came about in a time when many people trying to make their own way in life after the demise in state-owned industries. Films can inspire, and it's possible to sympathise why someone would be inspired by an intelligent and assertive character like Gekko, without wanting to crush the world underfoot.

It's simplistic to assume that there is something immoral about people who for whatever reason wish to emulate certain traits of characters (whether real or fictitious) who themselves may have certain negative personality traits.

So I must take a bit of an exception to reductive statements like "supporters of capitalism". Capitalism is just a mechanism for exchange (one that needs regulating), and it's perfectly acceptable to aspire to play the game well without being some kind of tyrannical stockbroker.

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Thu Jan 02, 2014 11:31 am
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