Narrative and Characters
This refers to the structure and storyline of the film, and how the film is told. A trailer picks out key points in
the narrative and presents them to the audience.
The narrative within gangster crime films usually follow a pattern of:
•The hero is an immigrant who dislikes his low status in life and wants more.
CHARACTER: The protagonist (the main character is often the gangster) often of a:
1. immigrant background, most often Italian.
2. strives to attain "American Dream”
3. Often his “fall” is due to his own greed or stupidity.
4. macho, short-tempered, violent tendencies
5. Gangster’s blood family and crime family both shown to be important, although crime family usually takes
6. Follows hierarchical structures within the crime family
•Unlike the Western, this story takes place in the big city.
•The wide open plains have been traded in for the seedy alleyways and wharves of the urban jungle.
• The gangster can only gain power by taking it. It is survival of the fittest, and the only law Is the law of the
• The only loyalty the gangster feels is for his own immigrant roots.
•Success is measured in material goods - flashy cars, expensive clothes, and mansions.
•Women are measures of success as well.
• The hero's antagonist is society, and the enforcers of the law. The police, the FBI, the represent the
enforcers of societal status quo.
• The end justifies the means.
Iconography isn’t a word that many people are sure of, but it’s something everybody’s very well aware
of. It’s a very important part of the marketing industry as well as the film industry, because iconography
is similar to what the word ‘logos’ means. It’s a group of pictures or icons that connote one very clear
meaning: the franchise they stand for. They’re used to advertise sequels a lot, as themes that are
recurring between the first and other films become icons that fans will recognise. They become their
own marketing campaign and bring the style and narrative together. For example the Superman logo/
icon which is a immediate identification of the character by the audience. However, icons don’t always
have to be specific to one particular franchise or character.
Lots of companies use iconography for certain genres to advertise their films as opposed to a
particularly recognisable logo. If a film is the first of its series, audiences won’t know what they’re
looking at straight away. In the case, Gangster crime does follow this trend:
Film will follow iconography conventions like:
•Pinstripe suits/ Hats
•Tommy Guns/ Knuckle busters
Themes are present in everything with a storyline, whether it be poems, stand-up comedy, or films. They
also tend to overlap many different genres because of their universal use. The theme of the importance of
narrative doesn’t just have to be there in a book; it can now be worked into a song, or a poem, or a TV
show. In a similar way, themes can overlap many different genres of films. The theme of romance isn’t just
applicable to romance films anymore, it can also be present in science fiction or urban drama.
Rivalry, with other criminals in gangster warfare. Often regarding money, pride or loyalty.
Morality, as religion is used as a key aspect, usually used as dramatic irony or to highlight their lack of
Betrayal, huge theme of giving up information to crime families or police. Can be to do with frustration or
most commonly, will go to prison otherwise.
Fierce ambition, protagonist is usually full of desire, sometimes resulting in his death or attaining ultimate
Materialism, all focus on material aspects e.g. cars, represent ultimate fantasy of rags to riches.
Self destruction, obtain everything they desire but they become complacent and bored, leading to big
Evil, the protagonist can appears evil, clinical and sinister as death is portrayed as a business with no care
Loyalty, undying loyalty between the mob, shown with how they consider them to be ‘family’
Appearance vs. Reality, key binary opposition, of things being different to how they seem, often someone
with different intentions e.g. want to become the boss
Quite possibly, the most underrated component of on-screen entertainment, whether film or television.
This is because audiences are usually too distracted by the plot or characters in front of them to properly
focus on what’s behind said plots or characters. ‘Settings’ refers to all the locations a film or television
show uses to make everything seem more realistic, such as the park the old lady gets her bag stolen in.
In Gangster crime the over arching settings are Urban/City location, rundown areas and industrial estates
as well as some housing estates.
However Gangster/crime films especially during the late 1970s are usually set in large, crowded cities, to
provide a view of the secret world of the criminal: dark nightclubs or streets with lurid neon signs, fast cars,
piles of cash, sleazy bars, contraband, seedy living quarters or rooming houses. Exotic locales for crimes
often add an element of adventure and wealth.
When planning and writing a film, it’s important to think of who your audience will be. Audience research is very
necessary when considering the demographic you’ll be marketing towards. A questionnaire or interview may be
necessary, as well as frequent evaluations and checks to make sure that, with every step being taken, the film is
still appealing and suitable to the audience of your choice.
Gangster crime generally tend to have quite a narrow audience due to it being a sub-genre. In spite of this, there
is an abundance of the particular demographic they target towards. It’s very common (if stereotypical)
knowledge that males tend to prefer the more crime/drama-themed films and females the romance-themed
films. Keeping in mind the bloody and violent themes that will likely accompany the distressing plots, it’s also
likely that they’ll be older teenagers and, more likely, adults, but not too much older than fifty. It’s easy to
assume that once people reach that age, they may spend less time going to the cinema and tastes may change to
more low-key hobbies.
It’s easy, therefore to assume that the target audience for police/crime thrillers is male 20-50 year olds.
Although it’s easy to target towards male adults, it can be very hard to tailor a film to every viewer’s individual
tastes. This means that the plots and themes must be much wider in their details.
For example, instead of marketing a particular actor, the posters would, perhaps, market the mystery or action
aspects of the film. Similarly, we cannot only assume that an audience of a Gangster film will be exclusively male,
so it’s important to add some more stereotypically feminine angles, too.
In this way, other crime films tend to write in a female protagonist that has a more sexual role to play, or will act
as a trophy wife or child.