There was a newspaper report of an armed gunman who said, when told by his victim that it was a policeman that he was holding up, “You know, now I have to kill you.” That is the stuff of gangster melodrama, and may even be true. The exchange reminded me of "The Asphalt Jungle" which was a remarkable movie because, among other things, it violated the movie convention whereby people who have others at gunpoint keep talking until the person with the gun pulled on him finds a way out of the situation. Rather, Louis Calhern just starts to sweat and lose his game face as he realizes that his erstwhile comrades in crime are going to kill him. However much they talk, the gangsters in "The Asphalt Jungle" don’t talk about what they are doing while they do it.


Why does the movie convention violated by "The Asphalt Jungle" make sense? Why do characters say what they are going to do rather than just do it? That is the same thing as asking why such dialogue occurs in real life, because the movie convention is simply exploiting and adopting a usage of everyday life, in that dramatic tension arises from whether an assailant will speak or not. So why did the gunman in the newspaper report act the way he did? (Here, I am engaged in applying Georg Simmel’s dictum, which is contrary to the accepted wisdom, that the sociologist can analyze fictional as well as real situations because both make use of the formal properties of social life.)


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