Tag Archives: Gangster Squad

A Week In Film #544: Americana

Space Cowboys title screenSpace Cowboys
Low effort, unchallenging comedy-drama about a quartet of ageing ex-military test pilots (Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner) who narrowly missed out of becoming astronauts in the 60s, who are dragged out of retirement to perform an implausible rescue mission in space because, well, reasons.

Gangster Squad title screen
Gangster Squad
Slick, unsatisfying, shallow and deeply inaccurate portrayal of the LAPD’s fight against organised crime from back East in the 1940s. Strong cast – Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick, Michael Peña and Sean Penn – under-utilised by director Ruben Fleischer.

Detroit title screen
Kathryn Bigelow tackles the 1967 12th Street Riot, in which redneck racist cops convince themselves a group of black men they encounter socialising with some white women in a Michigan motel were responsible for sniping at police from the top of the building. This obviously necessitates torturing them into confessing, and when that doesn’t work, killing them. Excellent work from a British-led cast (John Boyega, Will Poulter) and some grimly painted scenes.

A Week In Film #289: WET (again)

X-Men: First Class title screen
X-Men: First Class
I’m not really a superhero comic book movie kind of chap, but this was alright, a bit of origins action, with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the young mutants who will become Professor X and Magneto.

Fairly sassy direction from Matthew Vaughn, fairly adroit script from Jane Goldman, and the odd bit of excitement, though overall not my cup of tea. Bit alarmed that out of two African-American characters, one becomes a villain almost immediately, and the other barely survives into the second reel.

Ffolkes AKA North Sea Hijack title screen
North Sea Hijack AKA Ffolkes
Rather dull 1970s British thriller-without-any-thrills, hamstrung by being blocked out like a stage play, with almost all the ‘action’ taking place in confined shipboard rooms.

Roger Moore does at least seem to be enjoying himself as a woman-hating freelance marine commando. Other than that there’s Anthony Perkins as a ruthless terrorist (who doesn’t seem to have anything remotely like a plan) who holds an offshore drilling platform to ransom, and James Mason as an admiral. Not hack journeyman Andrew V McLaglen’s finest work, which is a shame – it could have been a great British Die Hard.

Gangster Squad title screen
Gangster Squad
Promising subject matter: late 40s/early 50s Los Angeles, and the LAPD is struggling to cope with Italian mobsters – so a small, secret, no-holds-barred team is set up to deal with the menace. It’s a based-on-true-events topic which has been done before (Mulholland Falls, TV’s The Hat Squad), and thematically it’s reminiscent of big-hitters like LA Confidential, Chinatown and The Black Dahlia.

But it’s pants. Directed by Ruben Zombieland Fleischer, it’s a film with little style and less substance. There’s no real attempt at characterisation (beyond ‘Hey, these guys are a bit battle-scarred!’), no sense of foreboding, no element of surprise, no hint of real danger – just clock-watching between each derivative set piece. A shame, because it could have been a decent West Coast version of The Untouchables (from which, naturally, it steals liberally). Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Mireille Enos at least have a crack at making it work, but with no depth to the script there’s nowhere for them to go.

Brighton Rock (2010) title screen
Brighton Rock (2010)
Supposedly a more true-to-the-novel than the 1947 film version (which was adapted by, rem, the author of the novel), even though it’s arbitrarily relocated from the 1930s to the 1960s.

It’s been a while since I’ve read the book, but from memory, this adaptation takes far more liberties than the Boulting Brothers one – creating composite characters for no logical reason, turning newspaperman Hale into a Colleoni hood, juggling motivation, and so on. Supposedly director Rowan Joffé wanted to flesh out the Rose character, and emphasise the Catholic themes of the book. Well, on that score he failed, miserably.

Plus Pinkie is played by someone who just doesn’t look a teenager (Sam Riley barely looks the youngest in his gang, and one of his confederates in Phil Davis). Plus – and sure, there were practical problems – having Eastbourne stand in for Brighton (a jarringly ‘Look! We’re in Brighton!’ walk-and-talk shot in front of the Pavilion aside) is simply distracting. Plus the engine of the plot – avoiding the rope – has had its spark plugs removed by placing the story at a time that much closer to today, when there are no capital crimes, and by failing to emphasise the threat of the hangman’s noose to audiences which have not grown up aware of its shadow stretching across the prison yard. Plus a whole bunch of other stuff.

City Of Industry title screen
City Of Industry
Rather boring, goes-nowhere neo-noirish robbers-fall-out crime drama from John Irvin, with Harvey Keitel going all vengeance and retribution after heist driver Stephen Dorff kills fellow robbers Timothy Hutton and Wade Dominguez for a bigger slice of the pie.

Not really anything much of interest, except Famke Janssen as a crook’s wife, doing her best with not much material, Tricky and Massive Attack and Bomb The Bass on the soundtrack, and lots of odd little plot dead ends. Basically a cut-price, half-baked Heat knock-off, with no cops.