Monday, January 14, 2013

Don't Watch This Movie: Gangster Squad

Rating: Rent It.
So let me toss out a few things right off the top. Emma Stone is gorgeous in this movie. If you're into women, you might see it just for her. Because she's smoking. Also? There are some brutal kill scenes in this film. If you like seeing a guy get split in half while chained to two cars, or seeing a police office and a mob boss bash each other's skulls in with their fists in what has to be one of the epic beat downs of the last few years, you might want to see it. I enjoyed this movie as a sheer testosterone rush of sex and violence, so as a man, from that perspective, it was pretty good.

Pictured: Sex.
Other than that though? I'm not sure what it says that, going into the climactic final shootout and beatdown, I kept thinking to myself, "I'd rather be watching Scarface". Don't get me wrong, Sean Penn plays a heavy vicious Mickey Calhoun, mob boss of Los Angeles. He's the most interesting character in the film, but only because he's the villain, and because his acting's pretty good. Penn gets all the good scenes with murder, violence, mayhem and intimidation, so of course his character comes across as interesting.
Calhoun in the middle of a typical work day.
But every other character is generally unremarkable. You've got a black, knife throwing police officer that's just... there. You've got a Mexican gunslinger that's just... there. It's like they tossed in the two minorities in highest demand right now in politics, just to point out that the police force fighting Calhoun was diverse. They just don't say enough to be interesting. It's not a matter of too many people filling the screen, either. Tombstone, a Wild Western film about a group of law enforces battling a belligerent criminal element had plenty of people on the screen, but they found ways to fill them with personality.
One of the greatest performances of all time. And it came from VAL KILMER.
The most interesting member of the force is, ironically, an old western gunslinger still living in the Los Angeles area, and only because he's firing six shooters when everyone else is packing tommy guns. All the other characters are essentially lifeless, just good guys doing good things.
Like beating the hell out of Mickey Calhoun.
There's some conflict between Sergeant O'Mara, who leads the force, and his wife, concerning his role in an operation that could claim his life while she's on the verge of giving birth to her child. There's also some conflict between him and his intelligence officer, who wonders what the difference is between the police engaging in these violent activities and the criminals they're fighting. That's good material and it only gets lip service on screen, without real time invested into analyzing those internal conflicts. Because Gangster Squad is more concerned with looking pretty, putting period piece costumes on people, having them roll around spouting some somewhat cheesy period dialogue from time to time.
You'll never take me alive, coppa!
It's pretty. It's got a sexy girl. It's got men beating the hell out of each other between wild shoot outs. But it lacks substance, it's got some cheesy dialogue, and you never get a sense that the movie is more than black versus white. It does give some lip service to complex themes, but never explores them. So, overall? Maybe watch it, if you're looking for a rush of sex and violence. If you're looking for something deeper, rent it when it goes to your local Red Box or skip it all together.
Sex and Violence!

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