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15 of the Best Shows About Gangsters & Criminals

Gotta love a good series. New and old, I binge watch so many that I would drown if they were made of water. Here's a bunch I love.

Claws, Ozark and Breaking Bad

I love a good series or show to binge with gangsters and criminals. Breaking Bad is my all-time favorite series. You just can't beat Walter White's story and the way the show was put together. I've put together reviews plus a list of 12 more shows that feature gangs, mafias, crime bosses and criminals in a TV show to watch all day.

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Claws

Series Info: June 2017, Season 2 August 2018.

Season 3 is confirmed and will announce a release date.

Genre: Neo-Gangster Dramedy.

Country of Origin: USA.

Writer and Producer: Eliot Laurence.

Claws is a fresh and unique show I saw on Stan (Australia) in 2017 is Claws. An awesome portrayal in a totally different setting. Claws is set in a nail salon. That’s right, the unusual would-be criminal masterminds are nail technicians working a salon called Nail Artisans. They become tangled up in the mafia.

There are women all from different backgrounds working in Florida, Manatee County (filmed mostly in New Orleans.)

The first episode dives right into the middle of their money-laundering ways and slowly goes back to whence it all came over the first season. The characters are typecast and feature Desna, the strong African American beauty that is the owner of Nail Artisans, a skinny white ex-con Polly, Desna’s blond buxom bestie Jennifer, Dominican Anne, the lesbian, and Virginia, who in the show relates to the Asian salon owners and was a prostitute prior to trying to join Desna’s crew.

When we first lay eyes on this group, they are fairly happy but firmly entrenched in a world that is run through fear of Uncle Daddy, who owns a local strip club as well as a lot of other businesses that he uses to run his money while selling pharmaceuticals through an emotionally dysfunctional Dr. Ken. Uncle Daddy has two sons, Roller and Bryce, and together they intertwine in a messy and often funny way with the Nail Artisans crew.

My Rating and Review of Claws
I binge-watched this whole season over a week. I couldn’t stop watching it. When the first scene opens, I almost turned it off, the 5 key characters were dancing, and I thought “oh no, this isn’t for me.” Luckily I kept with it because I think this will be one of the hottest shows around when people start to see it for the unique difference compared to other shows of this type.

The story is generally funny due to its setting but then it has this gritty, dirty undertone of violence, sex, and drugs all squashed together in a suspenseful messy way that only placing a woman in the protagonist role can give.

Each season features bigger and better baddies sidled up with humor, secrets, betrayal and love trysts.

There are some plot lines that are completely ridiculous such as crazy artist lady Gladys (played by Jane Adams) who makes gigantic artwork pieces containing pubic hair she has collected and Dr. Ken stalking his ex-wife's wedding but having scenes like this combined with the dark and furious undertone is like having some lemon water to cut through the sugar-soaked storytelling and reel it back to an enjoyable place.

It is really a great show that's extremely easy to watch.

I give Claws 4.5 gold tooth grills out of 5.

Season 3 Trailer - courtesy of TNT platforms

Ozark - one of the newest series to hit Netflix. Not to be missed.

Ozark - one of the newest series to hit Netflix. Not to be missed.

Ozark Review

Released: Season 1, July 2017, Season 2, August 2018, Season 3 February 2020.

Genre: Crime infused thriller.

Country of Origin: USA.

Ozark released for Netflix as an original series. The main protagonist is Marty, played by a stoic Jason Bateman who works by day as a financial adviser. I don’t want to give too much of the game away because many of the finite details are not revealed until late in the season and there are heaps of secrets to unfold given the way the story is told. I will, however, say that Marty is involved with a drug cartel kingpin called Del. When Marty’s friends and colleagues make a massive mistake, Marty is forced to relocate his family to the Ozark.

Once there, Marty discovers that making it in a remote location will not be as easy as he planned. His daughter Charlotte is trying to fit in and his son Jonah picks up some new talents coping with the fact that their parents aren't who they thought they were.

My Rating and Review for Ozark

When I first watched it, I thought it was a little slow simply because I am impatient and nothing much happens in the first few scenes. Characters were talking about the finance and looking at a new building to relocate the offices. I realized quickly though that under the skin of a boring show about a guy who works in finance was a bubbling current of fear for all the characters involved in the story that slowly creeps up on you like a hunter.

A persistent thing that makes a show successful is the general likability of the characters. Although I didn’t automatically appreciate Jason Bateman’s completely inexpressive portrayal of Marty. By season end, I realized that he is extremely clever and because of this personality trait he never gives the game away. He has the ability to think on his feet under extreme duress which helps creates a lot of excitement even when people are just talking.

With gangster stuff, you have shooting or fighting as the catalyst for people to 'work things out' but in this case, you get a bit of shooting, a smidgen of fighting and some very street smart people all running into each other in a small town for a bit of a chat. There isn’t too much violence in this one (sure we get some cool death scenes here and there) but there is always a sense of dread and with new acquaintances - unmasks new threats for Marty and his family.

I really loved Julia Garner in this (she plays Ruth). Halfway through the first season - the story just comes alive, we get to really know what type of people we have in the story and what it may evolve into.

I give Ozark 4 dead animals in the front yard out of 5.

Ozark | Official Trailer | Courtesy Netflix

Best Crime Series to Watch With Gangstas

Breaking Bad review for Mother of Movies

Breaking Bad review for Mother of Movies

Breaking Bad Review

Released: January 2008 to September 2013 (5 Seasons.)

Genre: Neo-Gangster Drama with a big dash of thriller.

Country of Origin: USA.

Writer and Producers:

Vince Gilligan cast Walter having worked with him on The X-Files on an episode where Bryan Cranston played a terminally ill guy who takes Mulder hostage. The producers wanted John Cusack or Matthew Broderick.

This heart-thumping five-season series was created by Vince Gilligan, who also wrote The X-Files (1993) and the spin-off Better Call Saul (2015.) In the Southern United States, breaking bad is a term that means raising hell. And oh does Walter White raise all kinds of hell in this show.

This fantastic series has it all, in terms of dark and light moments peppered with intense violence and gritty scenes depicting the underbelly of the drug takers, users, and sellers while combining it with Walters's ability or lack thereof to maintain a family lifestyle.

This show is ultimately about Walter White who begins the first season as the protagonist - a science teacher who lives with his wife Skyler who is pregnant and son Walter Jr who has cerebral palsy.

Walter is diagnosed with Lung Cancer and the family is struggling financially. Walter’s brother-in-law Hank is a Drug Enforcement Officer (played by Dean Norris) who takes Walt on a ride-along where he has a light-bulb moment in which afterward he commissions one of his students Jesse (played by Aaron Paul) who he sees fleeing from a meth lab so that he can support his family.

From this premise, we see the caterpillar that is Walter’s metamorphosis into what he is eventually known as one of the best-polarized good-guy turned bad that I have ever seen.

My Rating and Review for Breaking Bad

The roller-coaster ride that this show will take you on is by far the best ride I have ever been on. Walter White is simply one of the most interesting and complex characters I think I will ever come across and I could spend forever and a day talking about how at the beginning of the series he is a smart man in a crappy situation who sees a way out for himself.

If this series wasn’t so dark and his decisions and consequences so diverse, you might say he was some kind of eternal optimist that just so happens to forget that for “every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” given that he is a science teacher by trade, it’s a pretty big detail to miss. Did his circumstances make him what he became or did Walter always have it in him? This series needs to be watched to understand it’s pure brilliance.

This show spawned a couple of other TV moments— so intriguing were a lot of the characters, it was obvious there was a hole to fill when the show finally finished

I give Breaking Bad 5 special blue bags of meth out of 5.

Here are some you may have missed:

  • Breaking Bad Minisodes: These bite-sized chunks of Breaking Bad interludes commenced in 2009 after season 1 and went for 3 seasons. You can see them all on YouTube. There are 17 episodes that show snippets and stories about particular characters that serve as an explanation behind a few of the cast.
  • Better Call Saul: This is the backstory of Saul aka James McGill, criminal lawyer, in Breaking Bad. This series aired in February 2015 and has so far shown 3 seasons with the 4th season due for release in 2018. It’s a prequel to Breaking Bad and I was delighted to find that there are many references, flash-forwards, and cameos from the Breaking Bad series.
  • Metastasis: Spanish version of the show which ran over 2 seasons with the first season having 33 episodes and the second with 13.

Breaking Bad - Season 1 Minisode

Snatch - Series Trailer - Courtesy Crackle

If You Want Even More Series With Criminals and Gangsters, Try These Classics

  • The Sopranos: 1999 to 2007 (USA) 6 seasons.

The series that started the ball rolling and set the bar for gangster themed shows that came after it, the Sopranos is as well known as it gets.
Mobster Tony has two kids and a wife, he has issues with his mother and issues in his relationship with his wife so sees a therapist to discuss it all. His home life is fairly normal for a notorious gangster but living a life of crime is never complication free. If you need a show to start your obsession with this type of genre, this is probably a good place to start as it is widely known as the best show ever made.

  • The Shield: 2002 to 2008 (USA) 7 seasons.

This show has it all except this one is from the perspective of the law enforcement who while keeping up with their own lives outside of work, inside it, is filled with corruption, gangs, gang warfare, political agendas and all that goes with being in law enforcement and treading the tightrope between being straight and being crooked.

  • Oz: 1997 to 2003 (USA) 6 seasons

A jail uses an experimental unit to control measures used to rehabilitate its prisoners by separating them into groups. The drug trade is rife within the prison and the groups struggle between being involved in the day to day wars and staying alive. The story is told via the narration of Augustus Hill who is a wheelchair-bound inmate. This show made many of its cast go onto bigger things, spring-boarding from its success.

  • Weeds: 2005 to 2012 (USA) 8 seasons.

Single mom Nancy has two kids and is widowed by unusual circumstances. This show is a little like Breaking Bad, only with a female lead and not as good in my opinion. Nancy starts selling weed to provide for her family and of course, encounters the seedy side of people in drug cartels.

  • Boardwalk Empire: 2010 to 2014 (USA) 5 seasons.

Set in 1920 - 1930, a politician who controls Atlantic City becomes entangled in all walks of life to get and stay where he is. He mixes with other government officials as well as having mob connections to maintain his rise to prominence which of course leads to some messy situations between the two worlds that he must live in.

  • Lilyhammer: 2012 to 2014 (Norwegian) 3 seasons

Bad guy, come good guy back to bad guy this series is starting to gain motion with viewers and buzz around this show reaching higher as time goes on. An American mafia kingpin, Frank, needs to go into witness protection after a hit is placed on his life and he ends up being sent to Lillehammer to start over under the guise of being an unemployed American-Norwegian immigrant. His previous experience precedes his new cover story and he makes friends and connections easily. The series tells the story of his slow and often humorous rise back into activities that are second nature to a guy like Frank.

Back to the beginning - Underbelly - Season 1 Trailer

3-gangster-tv-series-that-will-blow-your-socks-off

If You Want Even More - Try These Classics

  • The Sopranos: 1999 to 2007 (USA) 6 seasons.

The series that started the ball rolling and set the bar for gangster themed shows that came after it, the Sopranos is as well known as it gets.

Mobster Tony has two kids and a wife, he has issues with his mother and issues in his relationship with his wife so sees a therapist to discuss it all. His home life is fairly normal for a notorious gangster but living a life of crime is never complication free. If you need a show to start your obsession with this type of genre, this is probably a good place to start as it is widely known as the best show ever made.

  • The Shield: 2002 to 2008 (USA) 7 seasons.

This show has it all except this one is from the perspective of the law enforcement who while keeping up with their own lives outside of work, inside it, is filled with corruption, gangs, gang warfare, political agendas and all that goes with being in law enforcement and treading the tightrope between being straight and being crooked.

  • Oz: 1997 to 2003 (USA) 6 seasons

A jail uses an experimental unit to control measures used to rehabilitate its prisoners by separating them into groups. The drug trade is rife within the prison and the groups struggle between being involved in the day to day wars and staying alive. The story is told via the narration of Augustus Hill who is a wheelchair bound inmate. This show made many of its cast go onto bigger things, spring-boarding from its success.

  • Weeds: 2005 to 2012 (USA) 8 seasons.

Single mom Nancy has two kids and is widowed by unusual circumstances. This show is a little like Breaking Bad, only with a female lead and not as good in my opinion. Nancy starts selling weed to provide for her family and of course, encounters the seedy side of people in drug cartels.

  • Boardwalk Empire: 2010 to 2014 (USA) 5 seasons.

Set in 1920 - 1930, a politician who controls Atlantic City becomes entangled in all walks of life to get and stay where he is. He mixes with other government officials as well as having mob connections to maintain his rise in prominence which of course leads to some messy situations between the two worlds that he must live in.

  • Lilyhammer: 2012 to 2014 (Norwegian) 3 seasons

Bad guy, come good guy back to bad guy this series is starting to gain motion with viewers and buzz around this show reaching higher as time goes on. An American mafia kingpin, Frank, needs to go into witness protection after a hit is placed on his life and he ends up being sent to Lillehammer to start over under the guise of being an unemployed American-Norwegian immigrant. His previous experience precedes his new cover story and he makes friends and connections easily. The series tells the story of his slow and often humorous rise back into activities that are second nature to a guy like Frank.

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© 2017 Mother of Movies and Series Reviews

Comments

Mother of Movies and Series Reviews (author) from Moreton Bay, Queensland on September 10, 2017:

Thanks Film Critic. The trailer absolutely does not do it justice. Watch two episodes, I swear you'll be hooked.

film critic on September 10, 2017:

Thanks! I heard of most of these, but never heard of Claw. Trailer looks good!