Many of the most popular films in cinematic history, especially those revolving around criminal activity, feature an individual that emerges as a snitch or a mole. Whether it is for their own benefit, betrayal, or a moral obligation, it is rare for a snitch to get away unscathed. The saying “snitches get stiches” often comes full circle and doesn’t make for pretty viewing . In the new movie Black Mass, Johnny Depp plays a criminal-turned-snitch that manages to escape the law, at least for a little while. To commemorate a new entry into the canon of great snitch films, here is a look into some of the all-time best snitch performances.
Frank Serpico – Serpico
Based on the biography of real NYPD cop Frank Serpico, Serpico tells the tale of a cop with a conscience living in one of the most corrupt eras of New York. Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) is a patrolman who quickly rises through the ranks of the NYPD. Serpico gradually notices the corruption in the police world, and witnesses several cops take payoffs, various bribes, and even commit violence. Ultimately deciding to expose the injustice he has seen, Serpico is harassed by other police officers and labelled a snitch. Serpico grapples with fighting within NYPD, death threats, and strains in his personal relationships due to his honesty and decision to come forward, and after he is shot in the face during a drug bust, testifies in court about the corruption within the New York Police Department. Frank Serpico received a New York Police Department Medal of Honour, praising him for his work.
One of the greatest performances from crime movie legend Al Pacino, Serpico has become legendary in the world of crime films for its spotlight on a profession that is normally shown as wholly honourable. Serpico is a classic crime movie that proves not all snitches will meet an untimely end, and sometimes exposing the truth is the moral thing to do.
Fredo Corleone – Godfather: Part II
The Godfather: Part II has long been considered one of the greatest films in cinema history. It serves as both a prequel and sequel to The Godfather, continuing Michael Corleone’s (Al Pacino) story while flashing back in time to Vito Corleone’s (Robert de Niro) immigration story.
This film is full of double crossing and betrayal, and features one of the biggest snitches in film history. Fredo Corleone (John Cazale) gives money to Hyman Roth, a business partner of Vito Corleone, and snitches to Johnny Ola—mobster and righthand man to Roth—to whom he gives information regarding the Corleone’s family finances. The men plot to kill Michael Corleone, but Fredo claims to knew nothing of his brother’s planned assassination. Fredo argues that he became part of Roth and Ola’s deal only to get something for himself, but Michael later finds out and confronts his brother claiming, “you broke my heart.” Fearing for his life, Fredo flees, and his ultimate death is the result of his betrayal.
David Kleinfeld – Carlito’s Way
David Kleinfeld’s story of giving into the dark side is a story that is all too human. In Carlito’s Way, lawyer David Kleinfeld (Sean Penn) gets his client Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino) out of prison on a technicality, much to the dismay of District Attorney Norwalk. Over time, Kleinfeld steals one million dollars from his client “Tony T”, an Italian mob boss, and is forced to help break him out of prison. Kleinfeld begs Carlito for help, and the two of them, along with Tony T’s son Frankie, help Tony escape. Shortly after, Kleinfeld murders both Tony and his son.
Nervous he will be caught for the murders and the stolen money, Kleinfeld snitches on Carlito and approaches DA Norwalk, offering to testify to criminal allegations against Carlito, which are false. However, Kleinfeld’s greed and snitching eventually catches up with him, and leads to his ultimate end when he is shot and killed by a hit man.
Cypher – The Matrix
The Matrix is a movie that is sure to leave audiences pondering over reality, questioning what is real and what is not. The science-fiction film depicts a dystopian future, one where reality is in fact a simulated reality known as “the Matrix.” The Matrix was created by highly intelligent machines that had taken control of the human race, and began harvesting humans’ body heat and electrical activity for energy. A computer programmer (Keanu Reeves) joins forces with a man named Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), a rebel who, along with others, hack into the Matrix to unplug enslaved humans.
Throughout the film, the rebels work to unplug enslaved humans while fighting off the “Agents,” intelligent machines in the human form that want to eliminate Morpheus and the others. In a classic twist, Cypher (Joe Pantoliano), a rebel who has become cynical with the brutality of the ‘real world,’ betrays Morpheus and the group when he snitches to the agents in return for a fulfilling life within the Matrix. Cypher’s disillusionment leads to a shocking betrayal, the capture of Morpheus and ultimately his own death. Cypher’s snitching is just one of dozens of narrative turns in The Matrix, and proof that sometimes snitching for the wrong reason can lead to one’s downfall.
Frank Costello – The Departed
Loosely based on real-life mobster Whitey Bulger, the fictional Frank Costello is a Boston mob boss who divulges information to the FBI in the 2006 film The Departed. Costello (Jack Nicholson) prepares Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) to become a mole within the Massachusetts State Police and report back to him with information. After Sullivan is accepted into the Special Investigations Unit, he is determined to find the identity of the snitch within that organization. When Sullivan discovers that Costello is an FBI informant through his own sleuthing, he fears his identity as a mole will be revealed and confronts Costello. Complicated twists and shocking jaw-droppers ensue, as no one is exactly who they say they are. The Departed is a film of mistaken identity and mistrust, and it is never clear if the snitch is the only mole in the movie. No one is safe, and no one can be trusted.
Whitey Bulger – Black Mass
Whitey Bulger was such a notorious snitch we’ve added him twice, this time he’s being played by Johnny Deep in upcoming thriller Black Mass. One of the most legendary American gangsters of all time, James “Whitey” Bulger rocked south Boston to its very core as the head of Boston’s Winter Hill Gang during the 1970s. The Irish-American mobster began working as an FBI informant to take down his gang’s biggest rival, the Italian mafia, as well as some of his other enemies in Boston. Over the course of several years, Bulger secretly passed along information to FBI agent John Connelly, and continued on with his criminal ways untouched. For a while his time as an informant kept him above the law, and Whitey’s involvement with countless murders, drug trafficking, and power as a crime boss went unscathed. When the FBI finally pursued Bulger, he was tipped off by Connelly, and remained on the lam for fourteen years before his arrest in 2011.
Johnny Depp is bringing one of the most infamous American gangsters to life in the brutal new biopic, Black Mass, in cinemas today, 25 November. You can read our review of Black Mass]
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