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"The only native American criminal class is politicians."
In fiction, gangs tend to share a few common traits:
- Family oriented, and headed by a patriarch.
- Talk of honor and loyalty (except when dealing with enemies, of course).
- An organised crime outfit.
- Majority is one ethnicity, we get some of the language and customs for color - they may be referred to as "The [Ethnicity/Nationality] Mafia". Contrast with Equal Opportunity Evil.
The second and fourth points are commonly played for drama, as combined they easily spark conflict. A common convention is to have gangs of different ethnicities compete with each other, such as The Irish Mob vs. The Mafia.
The most common types of gangs are:
- The Cartel - South/Central American
- The Irish Mob
- London Gangster
- The Mafia - Italian or Italian-American
- The Mafiya - Russian
- The Triads and the Tongs - Chinese
- Yakuza - Japanese
- The Yardies - West Indian
Other ethnic gangs are:
- American Gangster: Real life drug lord Frank Lucas models his empire on the Italians' to create an African-American mafia, with him as the patriarch.
- He is also probably aware that no one would take his gang seriously enough to investigate. He's wrong, though.
- Gambol from The Dark Knight
- Lottery operators such as those depicted in the film Hoodlum
- Mr. Black (haha, get it?) from Darkman appears to be one of these, from the way he dresses, but it's hard to tell because he is almost immediately killed by Durant.
- The Boss's gang in Lucky Number Slevin.
- Nino Brown in New Jack City.
- One of the Feuding Families from Romeo Must Die was this type of mob, the other being a Triad.
East Asian and Southeast Asian gangsters:
- Grand Theft Auto has the Da Nang Boys (Vietnamese gangsters), and Korean mobs, in addition to the Triad.
- Marrying The Mafia features a Korean mob family.
- Kiryu Kazuma fights Korean gangsters in Yakuza 2.
- The protagonist in The Perfect Weapon fights a Korean mob.
- The Hmong Gang-Bangers from Gran Torino.
Eastern European Gangsters:
- Grand Theft Auto IV features the (very significant in Real Life) Serbian and Albanian Mafias.
- The British film Layer Cake also includes a Serbian mafia.
- In Taken, members of the Albanian mafia are responsible for the kidnapping of the protagonist's daughter.
- The Albanian mob appears in Law and Order: Criminal Intent
- "The Chechen" from The Dark Knight
- Chechen gangsters appear in Eastern Promises
- And still more Chechens appear in an episode of White Collar, where they prove to have standards when it comes to an extortion racket involving the exploitation of innocent Chechen children.
- In The Punisher comic The Slavers the eponymous white slavers are these.
- The bad guys in the Robert Crais novel The First Rule are part of the Serbian Mob.
- Bad Boys 2 features some of these in a gang war with the South American variety.
- Eastern European gangsters are the main bad guys in the first and third seasons of Engrenages. (The second season has a North African mob instead.)
Greek Gangs seem to be the go-to Ethnic Crime Gang for antiquities smuggling and gun-running; illegal (non-casino) gambling is another favorite.
- Nick "the Greek" in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
- Colombo and Kristatos in For Your Eyes Only, who were from the Ian Fleming short story "Risico".
- Men of Respect. Has Greek Mob boss Alli "The Greek" Bernacci and other Greek Gangsters.
- Played for laughs in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Cousin Nick: (in a very cheerful tone) Hey Ian, we're gonna kill ya! Opa!
- The Martina Cole novel Dangerous Lady
- An arc in Season Five of CSI New York has Stella Bonasera investigating a Greek antiquities smuggling gang.
- Soap Opera Days of Our Lives. In the Backstory, Victor Kiriakis was originally a member of a Sicilian Mafia-style Greek crime family in his home town of Nafplion, Greece.
- The Untouchables episode "Jack 'Legs' Diamond", The title criminal made a deal with a Greek crime family to buy $5 million worth of narcotics.
- In the second season of The Wire, the primary antagonist is only known as "The Greek". He's actually Turkish (but of Greek heritage), and his gang is multinational, with Israelis, Russians, and at least one genuine Greek as The Dragon.
- The Velentzas family is a Greek-American criminal organization operating in the New York City area.
- The Philadelphia Greek Mob, mostly active in the 1970s and 1980s.
These guys are usually involved with the Italian Mafia and based on Bugsy Siegel or Meyer Lansky. More modern ones will typically be Israelis--sometimes presented as Ruthless Foreign Gangsters--and always portrayed as some form of terrifying badass and involved in some way with the Mossad. Historically, the Jewish Mob was a dominant force in the brief period between when White America started seeing Irishmen as "white" and the rise of the more numerous Italian Mob. During that period, they were involved in the regularization and "professionalization" of organized crime in the US, with the establishment of The Commission (the Italian-American Mafia's coordination/dispute-resolution body) and Murder, Inc. (organized, professional hitmen) being the brainchildren of Jewish mobsters (the Commission and Murder, Inc.'s parent organization, the National Crime Syndicate were specifically Lansky's ideas).
- Bugsy Siegel himself was played by Warren Beatty in the semi-biographical film Bugsy.
- Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel and Arnold Rothstein appear in Boardwalk Empire, along with other, fictional Jewish Gangsters such as Manny Horvitz. The show largely averts this trope, though, as the generals consider personal loyalty more important than ethnicity.
- Moe Greene from The Godfather is based on Siegel.
- Meyer Lansky expies:
- Sam "Ace" Rothstien (also played by Robert De Niro) of Casino
- In The West Wing, Toby's father was a former hitman for the real Murder Incorporated, a Jewish crime syndicate from the 20's to the 40's that (as noted) did a lot of contract work for the Italian Mafia.
- The Rabbi and co in Lucky Number Slevin. Complete with ex-Mossad bodyguards.
- Isaac's gang in Grand Theft Auto IV.
- The first arc of DC Comics book Caper by Judd Winick was about two brothers in the Jewish Mafia in turn of the century San Fransisco.
- Frankie "Four Fingers" and Uncle Avi's gang in Snatch, although neither actor playing them is actually Jewish (they're played by Puerto Rican Benicio del Toro and Italian-American Dennis Farina, respectively).
- Herman "Hesh" Rabkin in The Sopranos, who was strongly based on the real Jewish Gangster and record-label owner Morris Levy.
- Icepick in Magnum, P.I. is a semi-retired gangster whose real name is Francis Hofsteader.
- Zalmie Belinksy in American Pop.
- The Cohen Crime Syndicate in LA Noire.
- Nino in Drive is a Jewish gangster who sets the events of the film in action with his plan to rip off the East Coast Mob, his associate Bernie is played by a Jewish actor and is heavily implied to be Jewish as well.
Latin American Gangsters:
- Scarface: Tony Montana's gang is Cuban.
- Carlitos Way: Carlito is Puerto Rican.
- Ricardo Diaz in Grand Theft Auto Vice City and Grand Theft Auto Vice City Stories. Then Tommy (an Italian-American) takes over his drug business.
- The first wish results in Brendan Fraser's character becoming a Colombian drug lord in the Bedazzled remake, thanks to the Literal Genie Devil.
Gangsters with obscure ethnicities
- The Indigenous Australian (Torres Strait Islanders) crime syndicate in The Straits smuggles drugs in one of the most naturally beautiful parts of the world (North Australia and Papua New Guinea). They also deal with Asian and Papua New Guinean criminal franchises. In this case, one of the co-founders of the indigenous crime gang is of Maltese ethnicity, however.
Gangsters with fictional ethnicities:
- The Tauron Ha'la'tha from Caprica fits all four points (family-oriented with an old patriarch--the Guatrau--honor and loyalty, very organized, and all Taurons), despite including some elements of The Cartel (tattoos and rap, plus Taurons are Space Mexicans).
- The stoicism, use of tattoos to indicate rank and status, strong family ties, and preference toward edged/bladed weapons looks a lot like the Japanese yakuza. The ha'la'tha look like an amalgamation of every stereotype about organized crime ever invoked in the media.
- The Ha'la'tha's transition from freedom-fighting organization to organized crime is reminiscent of the Irish mob's roots in "defense societies" in the old country.
- In Mass Effect, Ethnic Crime Gang seems to be the hat of the Vorcha. Pretty much all you ever get to meet seem to belong to street gangs.
- Though they usually have multi-species organizations, the Blue Skinned Space Babe race of the Asari seems to run almost all major crime in the galaxy. The asari planet Illium is officially a "special economic zone", but in reality that means it's a primary hub for everything that is illegal to sell elsewhere.
- Star Wars gives us the Hutts.
- The Breccia in Discworld are the Troll Mob. The name is something of a Genius Bonus, as breccia is a kind of rock made from fragments of smaller rocks cemented together.
- The Orion Syndicate in Star Trek. While they have many operatives of various races, the whole thing is run by the Orions.
- In Traveller the planet Granicus is run by gangsters. There are three main syndicates, two of which consider it just business and have no particular ethnic associations. The third however is a Solomani-supremist cult.