I Always Wanted to Be a Gangster

Director: Samuel Benchetrit
Screenwriters: Samuel Benchetrit

Institute History

  • 2008 Sundance Film Festival


At the center of Samuel Benchetrit’s charming existential comedy about wishful criminality are four stories and an unadorned roadside cafeteria.

A small-time hood decides to hold up the cafeteria, despite having mislaid his gun and the keys to his car, but has second thoughts when he’s captivated by the waitress. A pair of good-natured kidnappers hold a teenage girl for ransom but fail to anticipate her suicidal tendencies. Two musicians (once friends) meet by chance. One is successful; the other sees a chance to settle the score. Finally, four retired crooks spring their ailing buddy from a hospital and head to their old hideout, where they entertain the notion of a heist for old time's sake.

In this sharply written, energetic second feature full of playful references, wry humor, and a loving sense of cinema (beautiful black and white images), what links the stories is the irony that these people aren’t gangsters at all. Their romantic conception of crime is simply a function of feeling slighted by life. They share a desire for something better. Beneath the humor, Benchetrit finds in his actors a warmth and weight of experience that transform the material: the wistful reminiscences of old-timers who miss their hideout (now the cafeteria) or the smile of a girl who finds affection for her kidnappers. The heaviest lifting is done with the slightest touch.

— John Nein

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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