DVD Review: Gangster Squad

Gangster-Squad-Black-And-White-Photo-09

Inspired by a true story, and based on a book by Paul Lieberman, Gangster Squad is a sleek and stylish, but ultimately predictable, mobster-cop flick.

Set in sepia tone, the first few minutes of this noir film shows just how much the city of LA has deteriorated. The city’s police and its politicians are all in the never-ending pocket of ruthless, power-crazy mafia don Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), who doles out brutality without a second thought.

Deciding to put an end to the corruption, honest cop John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) starts recruiting an undercover, off-the-books team to secretly destroy Cohen.

Enter Sergeant Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), and a host of other miss-matched personalities; Central Avenue black beat cop Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie); old cowboy sharpshooter Max Kennard (Robert Patrick); eavesdropping techy Conwell Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi); and Latino novice Navidad Ramirez (Michael Pena).

Acting-wise, Brolin holds steady as the man who seems to be carrying the world on his shoulders, though he is regularly upstaged by Gosling with a cool, off-handed approach. Sean Penn as Cohen is just downright scary – he nails the heart-piercing, droopy-eyed stare – but without such a fine cast of actors behind it, this movie would be little more than a high-gloss caper.

The only other good thing about Gangster Squad is how cinematographer Ruben Fliescher got the trappings of the 1940s spot on. The coupes and sedans, the people, the Hollywood stucco, the band singers in neon-lit clubs and Mafioso bars – it’s just about as good as it gets from that point of view.

Unfortunately, those looking for the depth and complexity of the best of the genre are in the wrong place, but take Gangster Squad for what it is and it’s not a bad way to spend an evening. But be warned – it’s not as deep, or as smart, as it thinks it is.

 

The Amazing Spider-man: Webb not strong enough

Hot on the heels of The Dark Knight Rises, the latest superhero flick to hit cinema screens is The Amazing Spider-man starring Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) and Emma Stone (Zombieland).

A mere ten years after the Toby Maguire/Kirsten Dunst/Sam Raimi Spider-man, director Marc Webb, disappointingly, opts to keep the plot simplistic and run-of-the-mill. While both Garfield and Stone are leaps and bounds ahead of the irritatingly dismal acting abilities of Maguire and Dunst, the plot simply isn’t interesting enough to make this movie anything other than mediocre.

Like most teenagers, Peter Parker (Garfield) is trying to figure out who he is. Peter is also finding his way with his first high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Stone), and together they struggle with love, commitment, and secrets. When Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents’ disappearance – leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr Curt Connors, his father’s former partner. The rest of the movie can be summed up in a few words: Spider bite, sense of duty, girlfriends bedroom, giant lizard.

While there was nothing particularly amazing about The Amazing Spider-man, it was an enjoyable film with good acting and great direction. It was both visually and artistically stunning, and got straight into the romance and action with no hanging about.

While Webb has successfully addressed the new demand for superhero movies to be deeper and more human, he is not a director adept at providing big-budget action to an audience in the same way as Joss Whedon or Christopher Nolan.

Most viewers will no doubt be satisfied by this the newest Spidey flick, but anyone expecting a remake as successful as The Dark Knight will be sorely disappointed.

%d bloggers like this: