The linear plot seems to be also obvious in the two latest films, Kitano’s Brother (2000) and Scorsese’s Gangs of New York (2002). The storyline of Brother is rather simple. As Michael Thomson stated in the BBC movie review, “the plot reaches a plateau at an early stage, and Kitano seems content to come up with one similar scenario after another” (2001, para. 3, lines 4-6). Yamamoto (Takeshi Kitano) has been excluded from his Tokyo yakuza clan and comes to the United States to find his half brother Ken, who lives on drug-dealing in Los Angeles.
In LA, Yamamoto becomes friends with Denny (Omar Epps), takes over a drug-dealing business from Mexicans and founds the Yamamoto criminal family. The accents put in this movie are within the realm of psychological characterisation, action scenes and portrayal of environment. In the Gangs of New York (2002), the plot develops in a linear scheme that puts the main characters in the epicentre of the notorious New York City Draft Riots (1863). Like Public Enemy and Roaring Twenties, the movie is constructed from several traceable temporal sequences. In Scorsese’s film, there are three of them.
First, there is the 1846 piece when “a brutal gang battle turns the snowy ground muddy with blood” (Pierce 2003, para. 3, lines 1-2) and the hero’s father is left slaughtered on the snow. Bill “The Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), the leader of a New York anti-immigrant “Native Americans” street gang, kills “Priest” Vallon (Liam Neeson), the leader of the other Irish street group, and takes over the Manhattan Five Points territory. Second, fifteen years later Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) returns to the Five Points district of Manhattan to avenge for his father’s death.
He infiltrates Butcher’s gang, falls in love with Butcher’s mistress and protegee Jenny Everdeane (Cameron Diaz), and takes part in the Draft Riots. The film ends with a scene of modern New York, thus, the third temporal stage is present. It is interesting to compare the films under analysis on the point of playing around with time and logic. From the point of temporal-logical sequences, six films – Roaring Twenties, Brighton Rock, Goodfellas, Hana-bi, Sexy Beast, and Gangster No. 1 – stand apart from the rigid frames of either linear or non linear plots.
The American nostalgic ballad of Roaring Twenties starts with “an almost apologetic” (Shadoian 2003, p. 79) preliminary passage by Mark Hellinger, the author of film writing credits, “as though there were some need to explain why one would bother making a gangster film about the old days at this late date and differently troubled hour”. The foreword went like this: “it is the ambition of the authors […] to honestly depict an environment that exists today in a certain strata of American life, rather than glorify the hoodlum or the criminal” (Rafter 2000, p. 20).
Due to the performance of the key actors, James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, as well as the details of the plot (the unhappy love story, as well as the classic narrative pattern of “the hero’s gradual rise to fabulous power and his inevitable meteoric fall” [Leitch 2002, p. 24]) the movie, however, turned into the nostalgic account of ‘good chaps’ distorted by outer complications. The foreword distances the viewer from the fictional narration. One of the taglines for the movie was especially exuberant in it stressing the bygone mode of the movie: “1920 . . .
Bootleggers, Jazz, Babe Ruth, Speakeasies, Jack Dempsey, Dames, Molls, Easy Living – Quick Dying . . . the torrid . . . blazing . . . wild . . . lush . . . lurid – ROARING TWENTIES !!! ” . It is evident that the movie turns nostalgically to the past and draws a borderline between the time when the fictional action takes place and the time when the spectator watches them unreeling. As Shadoian put it (2003 p. 62), the film “put the turmoil of the recent past into an ambiguously elegiac perspective”.
A similar attitude to the temporal relations is observed in the British criminal film Brighton Rock (1947), though the latter evokes revelation rather than elegy. On the one hand, it is also linear in regard to the plot structure. One event preconditions the other on a logical scale in the present, while a spectator has to restore simultaneously the logical sequences having started in the past. A journalist named Kolley Kibber (Alan Wheatley) comes to Brighton on a business task. We see him being chased by Pinkie Brown (Richard Attenborough) and Spicer (Wylie Watson), the leaders of the local race-protection gang.
While Kolley is seeking refuge in a saloon bar and in a fun fair on “The Ghost Train”, it becomes evident that he is haunted for having caused the death of a former gang leader, Kite. Kolley is intentionally ‘blinded’ for the sake of the plot twist: not until he is in a darkness of “The Ghost Train” tunnel does he discover Pinkie as a fellow passenger. The viewer is absorbed by the present intrigue, whereas, on the other hand, the past affects the evolvement of the plot in the present. If not for Kolley’s treachery in the past, Pinkie would not have chased the unhappy journalist.
If Ida Arnold (Hermione Baddeley) trusted Kolley Kibber in his paranoia, she would not have brought Pinkie to light. If Spicer has not left a clue behind in a restaurant, Pinkie would not have to marry Rose Brown (Carol Marsh), a young innocent waitress from that restaurant. The movie is provided by an overt element of the film-reality/spectator-reality detachment. Spicer (1999, p. 82) defined this method as “carefully distanced” because the movie dealt with “a pre-war Brighton ‘now happily no more’”.