Dear Gawker: Please Stop Whining About Boston Movies

(The O.G. of Boston movies. Photos via Miramax)

Yesterday, I was pretty amused to see Gawker's Hamilton Nolan complaining about the spate of movies about “Boston gangsters” in a rant inspired by news that Johnny Depp will be playing Whitey Bulger in an upcoming project and Ben Affleck will direct another Dennis Lehane adaptation, Live By Night. Here's Nolan:

Sweet Jesus for the love of all that his holy, I beg you, Boston film people, on behalf of the rest of America, PLEASE GOD stop making movies about Boston gangster. There are gangsters. In Boston. They're Irish. OKAY, WE GOT IT.

Gone Baby Gone. The Departed. The Town. Mystic River. The Boondock Saints. And all of the Whitey Bulger movies and Dennis Lehane screen adaptations to come. Some of these are very good stories. Some are great movies. So can we all, together, accept that the “Irish Boston gangster” movie has been done? It has been done. Again, and again, and again. Did Ben Affleck grow up in Boston, I wonder? Sometimes I wonder.

A few thoughts, in no particular order:

1. Of the five movies Nolan cited, two of them aren't even about Boston gangsters. Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River are crime stories with Irish-American characters, sure, but neither of them are about gangsters.

2. If these movies were terrible, Nolan would have a point. But four out of five of these are really good movies. Rotten Tomatoes rankings for Gone Baby Gone (94%), The Departed (93%), The Town (94%), and Mystic River (87%) are all quite high. The Departed won Best Picture at the Oscars. Mystic River was nominated. (The exception to all this is Boondock Saints, which is just a bad Tarantino knockoff.)

3.  As for actors/directors returning to the same city to tell similar stories, I'd direct you to Woody Allen, who made his career setting movies in New York and is adored for it. (Also, Ben Affleck grew up in Cambridge, not Boston.)

4. Nolan must be joking when he suggests that Affleck and others “think about tapping into the far richer vein of gangster stories that could be explored in other cities that can properly be defined as 'interesting,' like, for example, New York City.” A film about New York gangsters, eh? Go for it! But have you forgotten…Gangs of New York? Or, umm, The Godfather? Or Goodfellas? Or American Gangster? Or The Warriors? (Ha!) Or Donnie Brasco? Or Carlito's Way?

5. Speaking of setting stories in New York: If you're going to complain about a particular subset population of Boston having an unfair representation in Hollywood, let's look at New York, king of overfilmed cities! Here, for example, a partial list of recent TV shows about New York starring the white upper class/upper middle class:  Friends, Sex and the City, Gossip GirlWill & Grace, Caroline in the City, Spin City, NewsRadio, Mad Men, 30 RockHow I Met Your Mother … Oh, and I guess we should count that other show you guys have been obsessing about, too: Girls.

In, short, Mr. Nolan: Yeah, Boston has a couple popular filmmakers and screenwriters who keep returning to the same well for ideas. But they're doing so on a scale that pales in comparison to the New York-Hollywood industrial complex, and the movies they're turning out are actually good. So leave us alone.

  • Gay Burke

    While I agree with most of Mr. Doyle's points I take exception with #3. I think anyone who is in an outlying suburb of Boston, esp. the suburbs right on the boarder such as Brookline or Cambridge, consider themselves to be from Boston. I am from Belmont (separated by one city, Cambridge) and I know I do….

    • bostonian

      This is completely true. However, to those of use who live within Boston proper, you're definitely not from Boston.

      It's not a value judgement, but unless you vote for our mayor and deal with our civil issues, you are simply not a Bostonian.

  • joe mcginniss

    Way past time for a gritty crime movie set in Worcester.