American Gangster
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Cinema’s oddest gangsters

American Gangster
By Patrick Day and Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

Now that Tony Soprano and his crew exist only in reruns, perhaps it’s time to remind ourselves that gangsters come in all shapes, forms and colors. Making a strong play to erase the shorthand image of Tony in his oversize bowling shirts from our minds is Denzel Washington in “American Gangster.” The Ridley Scott film is getting rave reviews, and, if it catches on, could be the basis of a whole other wave of gangster pictures that have nothing to do with guys from Little Italy.

But Italian gangsters haven’t been the only kinds of mob guys on the big screen in the past few years. Here’s a look at some of Hollywood’s more unusual choices for organized crime bosses: (David Lee / Universal Pictures)
Return of the Jedi
Jabba the Hutt in ‘Return of the Jedi’ (1983)

Gangsters don’t need to wear sharkskin suits to fit the part. In fact, they don’t even have to wear clothes at all. Check out the wrinkled, green underbelly of Tatooine’s most notorious crime lord. He manages to convey menace, greed and decadence and do it all in nothing but his birthday suit. (Lucasfilm Ltd.)
Big Bad Mama
Wilma McClatchie in ‘Big Bad Mama’ (1974)

Angie Dickinson dropped her drawers and picked up a gun for this low-budget Roger Corman-produced exploitation flick set during the 1930s. No doubt her fiery red hair and sultry demeanor threw off everyone from suspecting she could be convincing as a ruthless kidnapper, bank robber, bootlegger and mothering crime lord. But one man wasn’t fooled: William Shatner, between his tenures as Capt. Kirk, shows up for one red-hot love scene with Miss Dickinson. (Associated Press)
Shark Tale
Don Lino in ‘Shark Tale’ (2004)

How to convince the world that sharks are the mobsters of the sea? It’s not so tough: just get Robert De Niro to voice the mob boss shark, show them sitting around a table for crime boss meetings, and the big angry violent stuff sort of takes care of itself. It worked in “Shark Tale.” (DreamWorks Animation)
Cats and Dogs
Mr. Tinkles in ‘Cats & Dogs’ (2001)

We had no difficulty accepting this film’s fluffy white cat, Mr. Tinkles, as a diabolical genius intent on taking over the world. Was he a crime boss per se? Eh … but he did employ a group of highly trained feline assassins determined to destroy the canine resistance. Mr. Tinkles was voiced by Sean Hayes and was ultimately thwarted by the hard work of a young beagle (voiced by Tobey Maguire)--a secret agent of the dog variety. (Rob McEwan / Warner Bros.)
Miami Vice
Isabella in ‘Miami Vice’ (2006)

Everybody was beautiful in Michael Mann’s re-imagining of the seminal ‘80s television show, but nobody was as beautiful as the lithe, elegant, difficult-to-understand-when-she-talked Isabella (Gong Li). Do gangsters really come that smoothly sophisticated and gorgeous? Probably not, but that’s why it’s a movie. Anything is possible! (Universal Pictures)
Dr. Detroit
Doctor Detroit in ‘Doctor Detroit’ (1983)

In Dan Aykroyd’s awkward years, between the end of his tenure on “Saturday Night Live” and the smash success of “Trading Places” and “Ghostbusters,” he drifted through a series of low-rent comedies, including “Neighbors” and this almost-forgotten flick, in which he played a mild-mannered college professor who begins a double life as the steel-clawed crime boss Doctor Detroit, an invention made to save a two-bit pimp and his four hookers from another criminal known affectionately as “Mom.” ()
‘Innocent Blood’
Sallie ‘The Shark’ Macelli in ‘Innocent Blood’ (1992)

At the outset, there doesn’t seem to be anything unique about the mobsters in John Landis’ horror-comedy. Guys like Robert Loggia (as the Shark), Tony Sirico and David Proval could play Mafioso in their sleep. But midway through the film these made men veer off in a whole different direction when a sexy female vampire (Anne Parillaud) inadvertently passes her undead gift onto “The Shark” and his men. ()
Bugsy Malone
The youthful mobsters of ‘Bugsy Malone’ (1976)

This film presented a world where crime bosses named “Fat Joe” are chubby 14-year-old boys, where the romantic lead is a pre-pubescent, high-voiced Scott Baio, and where the weapon of choice are “splurge guns” that cover their victims in cream (cream pies occasionally are thrown as well). There are sultry singers (13-year-old Jodie Foster), scantily clad showgirl dancers, and even black piano players--almost all of them under the age of 15. ()
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