Gangster Squad Movie Review

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Mild Spoilers!

Sometime in the 1950’s the LAPD got tired of the local mob killing their officers. So a few in the department decide to take matters into their own hands and ruin Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) business. Sgt. John O’ Mara (Josh Brolin) heads this team and seeks select few for very specific roles. You know the brains, the brawn, the gunman, etc. Meanwhile, Cohen is killing a few people left and right and makes it personal for a few on O’Mara’s team. So as the city falls further under Cohen’s rule the team feels the pressure to end it.

I left the theater both pleased and a little irritated. It was decently paced on the action side and gave the audience enough time to slow down to gather major parts of the story in-between fights. The murders were gory and completely unforgiving, like most gangster films. One of the more impressive things was that they really did well encompassing the jazz joints of the time. Yeah, sure, Hollywood has done it before, but this seemed bigger and more elaborate then most. However it made some of the same mistakes other films had made with gangster films it feels incredibly standard.

It has it’s moments where the mobsters establishes they’re big badasses. It has the moment where one of the main characters has a emotional turning point. It even has the standard brainy guy in the movie to help the team. The basic plot line is very Good vs. Evil, unlike Goodfellas, or even The Departed, where there is some gray in there. In other words: we’ve seen this before. Does it make the movie bad or unwatchable? No. It’s just a little disparaging since the whole point of the movie was about Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), one of the cruelest west coast gangsters of all time, and one would think it would be a little different in its execution or stand out a little differently.

Sean Penn was great, as usual, however there were a few scenes where I think he should have gotten angrier, think Mystic River, rather then punching people in the face. But I guess that’s script discrepancies and not his acting. Josh Brolin is back playing a familiar role as a stern authoritative figure and always pulled it off. Him as the lead character helped hold up half the film. Ryan Gosling was a decent pretty boy detective, but didn’t add too much to the plot. Emma Stone was almost unnoticeable and barely had any lines. Her character was underdeveloped, just like Anthony Mackie and Michael Pena‘s character. Anyway, due to this people don’t really get to see her talents shine, considering how well she’s performed in her other movies. In all honesty I don’t know what she’s doing in the movie considering her character doesn’t historically exist. However, she did a great job looking like a 50s babe. It was also great to see Nick Nolte cleaned up and in a gruff and casual kinda role. His addition did help with the political subplots in the movie.

The whole reason to go see this movie is if you have a action craving. This movie has a few historical bits to offer, but is mostly inaccurate. Like if you search for one of the main characters death, in this case Mickey Cohen whole death and arrest. Which is OK, but I think it would have helped the story some if they added maybe a little more and then extended the film some. All in all it’s really fun to watch, but don’t expect anything too deep or historical.

7.0 out of 10

IMDB – 7.3/10 as of 01/14/13

I feel ashamed for not mentioning him, but Giovanni Ribisi was good as the brains in this film. He would really shine in this if he had more screen time. He does have a few good/funny lines in this too. Its been interesting seeing him act in Ted, Contraband, and even Avatar. He’s proving to be a good actor and I do hope he eventually gets his Oscar.

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Hitchcock Movie Review

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Hitchcock had a lifetime of making stellar suspense movies and helped the horror genera gain credibility as a art form. Some of his greater works were made with his wife. However, from most of the bios given about him they rarely mention her. In this film it deals with a Hitchcock’s stable wife who struggles with her husbands eccentric personality, worries about the state of her marriage, and the possibility of them being poor. Meanwhile Hitchcock struggles with people problems, actresses who are just bad actresses, worrying if his wife is cheating on him, the stress of possibly going bankrupt, and dealing with unreal American censors.

As you can tell from the previous post the main focus on the movie was the relationship between Hitchcock and his wife. Many complained that they didn’t go into other areas much, like Hitchcock’s obsession with blondes, but this movie wasn’t about his idiosyncrasies. It’s about what a woman will do to stay with a eccentric man who loves her. But I can’t blame them, because when you hear “Hitchcock” you don’t think “love story.” He’s name is so synonymous with HORROR and SUSPENSE that I can totally understand why some people went to the theaters and was disappointed when they got something else. So let me emphasis that this is a melodramatic LOVE STORY, with mild violent themes. Also it should be noted that this is a love story between a traditional British couple. So there isn’t going to be any passionate sex scenes. I hate writing this paragraph, but I’m so tired of seeing other reviewers lose focus on what the movie is about.

Anyway, the movie opens like Hitchcock’s old show Alfred Hitchcock Presents which was a joy to see, and a rather humors to any Hitchcock buffs like me. Through out the rest of the movie there’s about a dozen or more nods to other things which are so subtle I doubt anyone would know what they are. Like the small motions that Hitchcock makes with his wife were actually a big thing since most of the proper gentlemen, of the day, weren’t that affectionate, which is what is seen most of the time in the movie. The most affection that is seen between them is their love for making films and how one will come up with a idea and then the other will either finish the sentience or make it better. One of the notable scenes is spoiled in the trailers. There’s a scene where they’re discussing how to kill Janet Leigh and their emotions and minds pretty much synch up to help make the film better.

The acting upon everyone was good for the character they played. Which is odd since the characters they’re playing were all alive at one time…and not to long ago. Helen Mirren almost outshines Anthony Hopkins. Mirren captures a slowly crumbling woman beyond well and held most of the film with the acting. Hopkins was fantastic as the melancholy monotone Hitchcock, but Hitchcock, as a character, has the charisma and wit, but lacks emotion. All of his actions were subtle and, if you have ZERO familiarity with different kinds of people, then you’ll have no clue what he actually means.

Like there’s a scene with Kurtwood Smith where he plays Geoffrey Shurlock, the USA’s censor at the time, gets rather tense and funny. Smith‘s character gives a laundry list of things that he refuses to let Hitchcock show in Psycho. This is a rather tense scene since Shurlock is giving the very apparent notion that there probably isn’t a chance that Hitchcock will ever get to show his film. So Hitchcock starts making dry humor jokes to just about every complaint Smith‘s character had. Many of these snide remarks were hilarious, but I didn’t hear a ounce of laughter in the whole audience. In the words of the late Rodney Dangerfield, “If it got any livelier in here a funeral will break out.” So it was obvious that people thought he was being rude, or something else, other then trying to be funny and defuse the situation.

The addition of Toni Collete (fantastic in Japanese Story) was a really nice touch since she added a quirky shine to the scene when it was mostly drown in melodrama. Danny Hutson seems to be a smarmy older man in just about everything I’ve seen him in. Not that he doesn’t do a good job, but I’d like to see him in a different role. Then there’s Michael Wincott who is exceptionally creepy as Ed Gein (yeah the serial killer Gein) in the brief appearances he was in. Then there’s James D’Arcy. He was the spitting image of Anthony Perkins in almost every way. With a little more screen time he would have been able to compete with Hopkins portrayal of Hitchcock. It was that good.

Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel‘s roles were almost a waste, not only due to all the hype they get, but also due to how little you see them on screen. They were OK as the 50’s stereotypical woman, but they were almost a waste to add in considering most want to see more of the both of them (or at least I wanted to see more of Scarlett Johansson). Let’s say in total that they were on screen for about 20 minutes total, for each woman. Half of that was a speaking part which required acting. So they don’t really do anything for a while 10 minutes, except look pretty. Which is disappointing considering there was probably more interaction between all of them then just that. So much more could have been added to the story that would add to the romance plot, but it feels like it was left out for some reason. On top of that Scarlett Johansson didn’t look a thing like Janet Leigh. She looked like a short haired Marilyn Monroe instead. So her and Biel were the worst two in the group that didn’t look anything like the characters they were portraying. Which is bad, and noticeable, since most the other characters were spot on. But then again this is half of Scarlett Johansson‘s roles when I think she could probably do more. That’s why I say they’re bad. She’s a side character, or less, so she rarely gets the recognition she deserves. I mean they’re both on the POSTER for the movie and they get less then 20 minutes speaking time. That just doesn’t make any sense. So basically this is where a main part of the film fails. It doesn’t develop too many characters and sometimes seems to expect you to know them already.

I enjoyed this, probably more then most, due to the fact that it seemed like a more big homage to creative people in love. Also the melodrama was interesting considering how you only ever hear about Hitchcock and rarely about his wife, in most biographies. The scenes were simplistically done to focus on the actors and they shined when it left them to their job. For those who want to see something other then the usual love story, watch this. Other then that it’s decent to watch to see the differences between yesteryear’s media and today’s perspective on suitable movies to make.

8.0 out of 10

IMDB – 7.1/10 as of 01/12/13