Case Number 17071: Small Claims Court


History Channel // 2009 // 564 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // August 20th, 2009

The Charge

They're fierce, brutal and ruthless -- and bent on leaving their deadly mark on the streets of America.

The Case

It's possible that maybe Gangland has hit a wall of some sort. When the show began, it provided a useful service: it profiled criminal gangs, clubs, and organizations of all types all across America. The mixture of first-person testimony and historical research made it a must for anyone curious about crime. However, as it has progressed through four seasons, it's becoming apparent that there are just not enough gangs to really fill out so many shows. There are some superb episodes here, but there are also too many that are repetitive and trivial. This would seem like a very good closing point for the series, but History may unfortunately decide to prolong it far longer than it should.

Gangland: The Complete Season Four has 12 episodes on three discs:

Disc One
* "Highway to Hell"
The Avenues are the most violent and dangerous Mexican gang in Los Angeles, and only increased their power when they aligned themselves with the powerful Mexican Mafia.

* "Devil's Fire"
The Pagans are not known outside the Eastern Seaboard, but their penchant for violence has made them one of the most feared outlaw biker gangs in the United States.

* "Divide and Conquer"
The Latin Kings rule Chicago's streets and prisons more thoroughly and viciously than any other gang in the city's history.

* "Kill 'Em All"
Beginning as a crew of hit men for hire in the 1980s, the Best Friends decided to seek power for themselves as rulers of the city's massive drug trade.

Disc Two
* "Kill or Be Killed"
LMG, or Love Murdering Gangsters, are the deadliest gang in Memphis, Tennessee, making that city's murder rate one of the highest in the nation.

* "Boys of Destruction"
The Boys of Destruction rule the streets of St. Louis, Missouri, with a taste for cruelty that spares no one, not even women and children.

* "Aryan Terror"
The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas began as a white prison gang but has spread out onto the streets of Dallas and is increasingly becoming more dangerous to anyone in their path.

* "Silent Slaughter"
The Sons of Silence are the biggest outlaw biker gang in Colorado and their reputation for brutality has made them more respected by larger gangs who attempt to enter the state.

Disc Three
* "Killing Snitches"
The Hidden Valley Kings control a small but vital part of Charlotte, North Carolina's geography, and they use the region's insularity to fend off both criminal rivals and law enforcement.

* "Everybody Killers"
The Hoover Criminals are Portland, Oregon's most treacherous street gang, and are far more dangerous than most gangs because they are not tied to any particular territory.

* "Dead Man, Inc."
Dead Man Incorporated began as a white murder-for-hire prison gang in Maryland, but has branched out into one of the most powerful organized crime syndicates in the U.S. penal system

* "Biker Wars 2"
Since the 1970s, the Hell's Angels and the Mongols have waged a bloody war over which outlaw biker gang gets the right to rule the highways of California.

For the most part, this has some first-rate episodes. The one on the Pagans, for instance, is jaw-dropping. Seeing how the gang once shot a Mafia associate in broad daylight in front of a police station and was so violent that they even chased the mighty Hell's Angels out of Philadelphia is the kind of revelation you watch this show for. Similarly, one gangbanger delivers a pithy epigraph that could apply to every single criminal profiled in all four seasons of this show when he recalls that he was into doing things so illegal that just by waking up in the morning, he was breaking the law. It's fair to say that most of this season ranks amongst this show's best, with typically thorough research into the history of gangs that have sometimes not been fully explored. This thoroughness has become so famous that it actually leads to one of the season's most amusing moments: during the Sons of Silence episode, Gangland's camera crew visits a Colorado biker convention where they are greeted by members of the SOS, all of whom are wearing T-shirts suggesting that the Gangland crew commit certain anatomical impossibilities.

The key problem this season is that the show has spent too many episodes on gangs that are minor at best. The Hidden Valley Kings, the Hoover Criminals, the Love Murdering Gangsters, and the Boys of Destruction are all fairly interchangeable in how small and insignificant they are. They control tiny swaths of territory (if that) and their stories are so clichéd that you'll have a hard time telling them apart, even though they all take place in different regions. This isn't helped by the fact that these gangsters all dress the same and spout the same tired lines about "keepin' it real" and "puttin' in work." If you don't doze off halfway through these episodes, you're a truly dedicated viewer. Essentially, one-third of this season is pretty useless, which is a much better average than, say, Monster Quest, but is much too high for this series.

Overall, however, it would be a mistake to claim that this is a weak collection. It's weaker than others, yes, but it's still worth watching. It's just that it's hard to imagine how much more the show could do -- there just aren't any more gangs, clubs, crews, or associations left to cover, if the lesser episodes on this set are any indication. Get it to complete your collection, but don't be surprised if you skip a few more episodes than usual.

Presentation is typical History: 1.78:1 non-anamorphic (why?) and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, both satisfactory. The extras are 5-minute excerpts of extra footage included on each disc, edited from various episodes throughout the show's history, adding different perspectives on gang-related topics, such as women in gangs, territory, and names. These are worth a look.

The Verdict

Not guilty, but it's time to call it a day, History.

Review content copyright © 2009 Victor Valdivia; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile
Studio: History Channel
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 564 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Bonus Footage

* IMDb

* Official Site