Gangster Squad (2013)

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Roze-Rating: 3.5 / 5

In this period gangster thriller we are sent back to 1949 post WW2. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) returns from war and back to sunny Los Angeles where things have changed drastically. Mickey Cohen is a power hungry gangster who is willing to do anything in order to grow his empire. His ambitions to own the whole of the west coast drives him to countless murders in what he calls “progress”. Before it’s too late Cheif Bill Parker (Nick Holte) contacts O’Mara and urges him to get a team together later known as “The Gangster Squad”. They’re mission is to take down all of Mickey Cohen’s crime operations before they grow too big to take down.

I expected this film to be loaded with plot twists, character development and periodical references. I suppose I thought it would be challenging LA Confidential or any other good period gangster films. Instead it lacked in all those areas and wasn’t as serious as I thought it would be. This was a good and bad thing because it ticked all the boxes that I like in a fun cop film but with a cast that it boasted and the performances it had; the lack of substance was unsatisfying.The plot is simple which didn’t really leave much room for an explosive film, which was disappointing especially when you have such an intense character like Mickey Cohen as the villain. That being said once you realize what direction the film is going, then you can sit back and enjoy it. As soon as I heard the music during the opening scene with Josh Brolin, I could tell it was going to be more fun than dramatic.

There’s enough action to keep the average film viewer satisfied but on the second viewing you realize it’s not as thrilling as it could have been. The shootout’s are loud but there isn’t much to them making them seem generic. Maybe I’m being overly fussy but I felt there was a missed opportunity in that aspect of Gangster Squad. Nevertheless they were still fun to watch.

The cast is amazing, I mean two of my favourite actors on screen… banging… again. So it was always going to be hard to hate this film when Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are acting together. Luckily they put in some pretty good performances. A lot of people didn’t really like Goslings high pitched, slightly odd accent and I think the director must have caught on to it because it gradually subsided as the film progressed. I didn’t mind it to be honest, it gave his character more of an identity. The rest of the cast were incredibly solid, it was the second time I’ve seen Josh Brolin play a lead role and he nailed it. Now I wish he was the new batman. Sean Penn as always is amazing as the power hungry Mickey Cohen, if there was more to the script, giving him more of a dynamic than just a short tempered gangster with a tolerance to killing then he would easily be one of the most menacing villains of 2013.

Gangster Squad really is style over substance. It’s glossy and pristine, despite it being shot in dark surroundings for most of it, you can catch the colours of neon signs and red lipstick very clearly. It’s definitely nice to look at, which is one of the main positives of this film, it captures that time period pretty well in a unique fashion.

Despite some disappointment over Gangster Squad, I actually quite enjoyed it. It seemed like the perfect film for me, I like gangsters, I like snappy one liners and I like shootouts. Was the film perfectly executed? No, but it’s fun and entertaining enough to watch til the O’Mara-Cohen showdown.

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Killing Them Softly (2012)

killing-them-softly-brad-pitt-poster-headerRoze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Two thugs are hired to rob a local mob card game. They rob it based on the assumption that a specific card player will get the blame, putting them in the clear. The robbery results in the local criminal economy to collapse, causing Brad Pitt’s character, Jackie, to be called in to fix the financial dilemma and restore order amongst the mob.

The premise is smart and interesting exploring a new angle of the gangster genre. I’ve never seen a film where the gangster world is explored to the point of it’s economy, it’s a pretty unique idea that hasn’t been done before. The plot luckily backs the premise up with some intriguing characters and stylish events. What really makes the film special is the filming, it’s clear, stylish and dynamic. Without the conveyed style, the situations wouldn’t have made an impact on the audience. Especially a certain beat up scene, it was probably one the most brutal and realistic scenes that I’ve witnessed in a film. The combination of the rainy, dark atmosphere, powerful sound effects and constant camera movements made for an emotional watch. This really illustrated the violent nature of gangsters to full effect. There was another memorable scene which explores a similar violent event with a different nature. The idea of killing someone softly is what this scene shouted out. the gentle music accompanied with slow motion effects, made the event seem graceful and less savage. There was a less reckless manner about it. Lastly the editing is worth some praise because it is fluent, consistent and effective which became apparent in a certain drug related scene, where the film taps into the mind of the drugged up character, felt extremely real.

Another positive is the dialogue, without the dialogue this wouldn’t have been anywhere near as enjoyable. The characters are so intense that their dialogue is for the most part engaging. There’s enough comedy to keep us entertained but also enough gangster terminology and nature to keep us immersed in the conversation. Brad Pitt probably holds the best lines of the film, namely the last few scenes. As well as James Gandolfini who talks a lot of nonsense but it’s calculated nonsense. Acting is solid all round by all the veterans, but props go to both Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn, both putting in some great performances. McNairy was awesome in Argo despite the smaller role and so was Mendelsohn in The Dark Knight Rises. I feel they didn’t get much credit or recognition for these performances when they fully deserve it, but what they did prove is that they have a long career ahead.

I think the main downfall of Killing Them Softly is that it seems to take itself too seriously. it intends to have it’s message heard, which is evident through constant audio of Barack Obama speeches. it concentrates so much on this that it neglects the narrative.

This film is definitely a must watch of 2012. If you are into films with great filming and cinematography, which is purely dialogue driven and has a unique gangster premise then you won’t be disappointed with the transaction atmosphere of most of the scenes. If your looking for a super violent gangster film with respectful action, then you will find Killing Them Softly quite boring.