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The American Mafia, or La Cosa Nostra, emerged from the Italian immigrant ghettos in New York around the turn of the 19th century. By the Twenties they’d moved into the illegal alcohol trade, taking advantage of Prohibition. They’d also become big business, running construction sites, sanitation services and drug trafficking.
Today, despite their lack of the bespoke suits and dazzling pearly white smiles of the past, America’s mobs are still active, according to experts. They still use their money and power to carry out murders, extortion and racketeering. They’ve also taken to swindling people out of their cash.
During the last decade, the Gambino family, one of five mafia families in New York, were involved in a scam that was deemed the largest consumer fraud in US history. The scam involved men who worked for the Gambino crime family and were in charge of a pornographic video company, a telecommunications company and a bank that processed credit card payments. The crooks used the scam to defraud millions of dollars from consumers, Scala says.
In addition to being a lucrative source of income, Scala said, the scam was an example of the new way organised crime groups operate in modern society. In recent years, they’ve used their access to legitimate banks to launder money, enabling them to move billions of dollars worldwide.
They also have a strong connection with the Sicilians and other Italian organised crime networks that transport drugs from Europe to the United States, he added. Those relationships have helped the mob in their fight against US authorities, he says.
Another aspect of mob culture that is often lampooned in films is their reliance on drugs. These days, they’re importing cocaine from Europe, sending it to the US and selling heroin here.
The US government’s response to this has been a ruthless crackdown that has seen scores of the mafia arrested and prosecuted over the past few years. A few weeks ago, John Gotti, the former head of one of the country’s biggest mob families was convicted of extortion and racketeering.
While this is a good thing for the mob and for law enforcement, it’s also a bad thing for the average citizen. The government is now using a lot of money that it would normally use for other purposes, such as tackling drug addiction and the threat of terrorism, to bust the mafia and make life a little more difficult for them.
Unlike other films about the mafia, this one doesn’t rely on facile tropes or an expositional style to set up its action. The mob story is told in a gripping and authentic manner, making it a fun film to watch.
“Mickey Blue Eyes” doesn’t get to the heart of its plot, but it’s a passable fish-out-of-water tale that provides some entertaining bits in an otherwise unsatisfying whole. It’s not as laugh-out-loud funny as “Analyze This” or “The Family,” but it’s worth a watch for fans of gangster satire and crime cinema.