January 12, 2013

Gangster Squad

I saw five movies less than a month- four of them in two weeks - so I've fallen behind in my movie reviewing. Now that I've tapped out the Oscar nominees, I have time to write a little...
It's quite a feat to make a genre film that contributes almost nothing to the genre. An amazing composite of existing characters and tropes (LA Confidential, The Untouchables, Chinatown: call your attorneys), Gangster Squad barely registered on my consciousness. Josh Brolin grimly trudges along, gritting his teeth every step of the way. Ryan Gosling floats along, charming every woman in the theater (so THAT's what I've been hearing about) with an long face, walleyed expression, and odd high voice. Emma Stone does an okay job, clearly out of her comfort zone as a doomed moll - the Kim Basinger role from LA Confidential. What Sean Penn was thinking when he agreed to make this movie is beyond me. His sociopathic goblin is a sad shadow of Pacino and DeNiro's Scarfaces. My Grade: C-plus

Hat Squad?

This movie is based on the true story of the police squad that fought organized crime in Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s. This story has been told at least twice before- in a 1992-93 TV show (produced by Stephen J. Cannell) called  Hat Squad ...that lasted for 13 episodes.

Then there's the 1996 movie Mulholland Falls- not to be confused with Mulholland Dr - that also stars Nick Nolte. I remember Mulholland Falls for the wonderful cast, and Jennifer Connelly!

Spoiler Alert

What's the point of a gangster movie where no one dies? Only Giovanni Ribisi's electronics geek dies. I would have bumped this up a full letter grade if Brolin, Gosling, or Stone had died. Gangster Squad includes the scene from The Untouchables where the bad guys show up at the hero's house and threaten his family. In this remake, the gangsters shoot up his house into Swiss cheese, but Brolin's pregnant wife -- she even resembles Eliot Ness's wife -- not only does she survive the shooting, she successfully delivers her own baby in the bathtub. Aren't BAD things supposed to happen in gangster movies?

Theater Notes

The ladies in the Somerville Theater audience truly adored Ryan Gosling. I don't remember another movie where the ladies were completely enthralled.