This is the first film distributed and produced by Rockstar Productions, a film company owned by Rockstar Games. The company was started with the earned money from Rockstar Games' previous film The Duellist (1977).
The entire film is a hommage and parody to the gangster genre in many ways, a genre which Rockstar Games as a movie-addict is a huge fan of. The film was shot with the same camera equipment used in the begin 1930s for gangster films including Little Caesar (1931), The Public Enemy (1931) and Scarface: The Shame Of A Nation (1932), including entirely shot in black-and-white. Also, the main character portrayed by John Belushi has the same traits and character arc as the main characters in above films. However, the film also pays hommage to The Godfather (1972), including all the gangsters being of Italian nationalism. This makes it a combination of the modern "civilized" Mafia films of the 70s and the American "tommy-gun" gangster films of the 1930s.
The characters of Gene Hackman and Roy Schneider as the tough and somewhat corrupt police detectives are obvious references to The French Connection (1971).
The character of Sterling Hayden is a reference and possible "reincarnation" (as Rockstar Games once said in an interview) of the gangster who gets shot to death in the opening scene of the classic gangster film Scarface: The Shame Of A Nation (1932).
Although the film was a huge success in terms of box office gross and critics reviews, it gained its cult following in the late 80s, begin 90s.
The soundtrack of the film (which only contains piano and trombone instruments) was recorded while the movie was playing. The artists of the soundtrack would play the music while the film was playing in the editing room.
Rockstar Games choose John Belushi for the role of the main character in the film for three seasons: one; because he was funny, two; at the audition held he was the only one who came in wearing a hat, gangster clothes and a fake tommy gun, and three; because Rockstar Games had seen his role in Animal House (1978) and thought he was great in it.
The film was shot on-location in New York.