Crime Cinema: An Introduction
An Introduction to a New Monthly Feature
By Nicole Rafter
My original interest in crime films led me to introduce courses that examined the dynamic interplay of art and life in crime films at Northeastern University, and it eventually resulted in my book Shots in the Mirror: Crime Films and Society (Oxford University Press, 2d.ed. 2006). To further the discussion I have to decided to write a monthly column for the OUP blog about all kinds of crime films-new ones and classics, Hollywood productions and independents, cop films, law films, and prison films.
I’d like to discuss how crime films shape our ideas about heroism, how they keep us in touch with our own histories by reinterpreting famous crimes of the past, and how they encourage us to rethink issues such as capital punishment, the causes of crime, and criminal responsibility. I relish crime films for their ability to involve people around the globe. Throughout the world-as Filipinos watch Seven and Chinese audiences view the Japanese classic Rashomon-crime films feed into and reflect people’s ideas about crime and justice, good and evil.
Thousands of movies might be classified as crime films. How can we get a handle on this vast, amorphous material? In Shots in the Mirror, I define crime movies as films that focus primarily on crime and its consequences. To keep the subject matter manageable, I ignore made-for-television crime films, which are shaped by different considerations of audience, artistic aspiration, duration,
and financing than feature movies. But even with this exclusion, I ended up covering over four hundred crime movies.
I welcome visitors to contribute views on feature-length movies in which crime and its consequences are central.