Dying to Belong: Gangster Movies in Hollywood and Hong Kong

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9781405163705: Dying to Belong: Gangster Movies in Hollywood and Hong Kong

This fascinating book begins with a new definition of the gangster film and a challenging exploration of the Hong Kong and Hollywood screen traditions.


  • Illuminates the way gangster films deal with the ambiguities of modern life, correcting the notion that this genre is inconsequential sensationalism
  • Contends that both American and Hong Kong gangster films are against-the-grain reactions to the central fable of modern democracies that promise immigrant (and other) outsiders that they can become social insiders 
  • Clarifies crucial and fascinating differences between American and Hong Kong approaches to enjoining the discussion of immigrant histories by placing them in counterpoint with each other
  • Draws on a range of American films, ranging from Public Enemy and Scarface to Gangs of New York, Goodfellas, and The Godfather 
  • Explores a number of Hong Kong's 21st century gangster films, including Andrew Lau's great trilogy, Infernal Affairs, and Election and Election 2, directed by Hong Kong auteur Johnnie To
  • Concludes with an exclusive interview with The Sopranos' creator, David Chase

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Book Description:

Dying to Belong offers a unique look at the complex and fascinating genre of the gangster movie. Across the world, gangster films are often mistakenly viewed as an inferior and immoral­even dangerous­type of entertainment. By examining a broad range of films spanning several decades, Martha Nochimson deftly illustrates the darker, more substantial themes of dislocation and disorientation which define true gangster films. From Little Caesar and The Godfather to The Sopranos, the gangster's tale is that of an immigrant outsider looking in. The shock the gangster film delivers is not just in its physical violence, but in its perspective on the confusing and illusory promises of upward social mobility given to newcomers in Hollywood and Hong Kong. Here, classic screen traditions are explored using a new definition of the gangster genre. Offering no excuses for gangster behavior, Dying to Belong nevertheless highlights the disturbing resemblances of these "wild, bad men" to the straight citizens of two immigrant nations, in what is sure to be a controversial analysis of films that have historically been dismissed as part of a frivolous action genre.

About the Author:

Martha P. Nochimson is Associate Editor of Cineaste Magazine, and the author of No End to Her: Soap Opera and the Female Subject (1993), The Passion of David Lynch: Wild at Heart in Hollywood (1997), and Screen Couple Chemistry: the Power of 2 (2002).

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