Ever since the Grand Theft Auto series leapt to 3D, Rockstar has continued to push the cinematic elements of the series even further. From the Coerleone-influenced Italian Mobsters in Grand Theft Auto III, through the neon-and-scarface soaked Vice City to the gritty, Scorsese-esque GTA IV, Rockstar have proudly shown off their favourite films.
Grand Theft Auto V brings us back to the Los Angeles inspired Los Santos, a city we previously visited in one incarnation in the 1992-set GTA: San Andreas. From what we’ve seen, Grand Theft Auto V will be a different take on the city of Los Angeles. Rather than the gang-soaked city on the verge of breakdown, GTA V will show modern LA in all its glory, and the game’s particular focus on heists is sure to draw inspiration from a number of great sources to produce the California of the imagination.
Here are five films to get you in the mood:
The most obvious entry on this list, Heat tells the story of professional criminal Neil McCauley (Robert de Niro), on the verge of leaving the business. After a ring-in betrays McCauley’s crew, he must choose between skipping town and completing one last job- All the while pursued by the brilliant but erratic detective Hanna (Al Pacino).
Michael Mann’s magnum opus, Heat is a complex and sprawling heist film that nevertheless always feels deeply focused on its main characters. That said, the city of Los Angeles feels almost like a third character, with remote lots and wide roads giving the film a feeling of isolation even in one of the world’s most famous cities.
The other thing it’s remembered for, of course, is that shootout
Already liberally referenced in the GTA IV mission “Four Leaf Clover,” we can only hope that GTA V goes back to such an awesome well for another drink
Expect to see in GTA V: Professional Criminals, meticulous heists, assault rifle fun
The newest entry on this list (and a Gosling-fan favourite) Drive takes a fairly low-key approach to its subject matter. The Driver (unnamed) (Ryan Gosling) is a stunt driver and mechanic by day, and a getaway driver by night. After his neighbour’s husband is released from prison in a certain amount of trouble, the Driver tries to help him get square with those he owes- and it goes pear-shaped from there
What Drive does really well is show that Los Angeles is, after all, the capital of Car Culture. it’s a city that (on film) is dominated by roads, where you drive everywhere, and where the man with the best driving skills is king. Drive also shows the city by night- Los Angeles as a dark place where you can hide and seek with the cops. The Driver unfortunately never got an opportunity to use a Pay ‘N’ Spray.
Expect to see in GTA V: Tuned cars, Aqueducts, crazy and sudden violence, baseball jackets
Really, any of Tarantino’s first couple of films could have fit here- Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown all deal with a certain level of low-rent Los Angeles criminality – Jackie Brown is the most complex and underrated of the three. Adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel (Rum Punch) the film stars blaxploitation legend Pam Grier as flight attendant Jackie Brown, working for vicious and oddly bearded Ordell (Samuel L Jackson). After getting pinched by the ATF on her way into LA with Ordell’s cash and cocaine, she agrees to help them bring down Ordell with the at times reticent assistance of nice-guy bail bondsman Max (Robert Forster).
What Jackie Brown does really well is make the crime suburban and mundane- the criminal assortment in Jackie Brown are not flashy or cool, they’re ugly, crazy and a bit dumb. Jackie Brown also shows the suburbia of Los Angeles- the malls, the little suburbs- and the plain weird parts of Americana (the Guns and Bikinis film-within-a-film was fake, but I’ve no doubt there’s real versions around). Los Angeles isn’t the cool criminality of The Godfather- it’s the daggy one that sometimes has to operate in shorts and a singlet.
Expect to see in GTA V: Crazy criminals, slightly crooked government agents, shopping malls, suburban houses
The Big Lebowski
I almost left this one off, as it’s in some ways a period piece, but the Big Lebowski shows the utter, utter weirdness of all big cities. From the porn moguls to the bowling pederasts to the avant-garde artists, the Los Angeles of the Big Lebowski is populated by the weird burnouts and the cultural elite. It may be a big city, but the degrees of separation are low, as The Dude (Jeff Bridges) travels all over LA trying to get compensation for his soiled rug, because man, it really tied the room together.
Endlessly quotable, The Big Lebowski has encouraged everything from the Tao of the Dude and “dudeism” to annual Lebowski-fests (the Melbourne one was in July). What the Big Lebowski does for the city is show us the laidback LA- the one where Marijuana is a big thing. Now that pot’s legal (to a point), I’ve no doubt that the Dude’s inspirations are out there having similar adventures. Perhaps with less Tara Reid.
Expect to see in GTA V: Stoners, Burnouts, the super-rich, and if we’re lucky nihilists and Caucasian Russians
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
An homage to hard-boiled detective novels, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a clever look at Hollywood, and how the City of Angels chews up young hopefuls and spits them out. Starring a pre-Iron Man Robert Downey Jr. (in Stark-without-the-income mode) as a small-time criminal stumbling into a film audition, and a never better Val Kilmer as Private Eye “Gay” Perry, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang acidly skewers Hollywood, Happy Endings and the whole Private Eye Genre.
What Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is it takes the idea of Hollywood as a glamourous place, full of optimism, and pitches it off a cliff. Although it was touched upon in San Andreas, I hope GTA V will show us that the films are all make-believe.
Expect to see in GTA V: Vicious studio heads, naive up-and-comers, wise-ass criminals, and the security/private investigators/lawyers and agents in-between
5 More if you want to keep going
- Lethal Weapon
- The Long Goodbye
- The Fast and the Furious
- LA Confidential
What do you think? Which other LA-centric films gets you in the mood for GTA V?