Gangster Squad is the work of Ruben Fleischer, who’s only prior notable film is Zombieland, which was certainly unique and funny in a campy way. In Gangster Squad, he has taken a script by untested screenwriters and turned it into a high-profile mob movie with big stars and lots of hype.
Sean Penn as Micky Cohen being chased by Josh Brolin (John O’Mara), Ryan Gosling and Giovanni Ribisi and Emma Stone playing love interest to Penn and Gosling simultaneously is hard to beat. But the critics seem to hate this one, giving it a Metascore of only 40, with the NY Times and WSJ only averaging 20 between them. Pretty surprising given the cast and probably why they launched in the early awards season when almost nothing else is coming out.
This is the story of the post-war Elliot Ness of L.A. Trying to keep Micky Cohen from controlling everything from drugs to prostitution to book running. And like the Untouchables, this was a “no holds barred” approach that skirted the boundaries of the law to accomplish the professed justice.
This was not The Untouchables, it was not Bugsy, it was not even Boardwalk Empire, but it wasn’t bad enough to warrant getting trashed by the critics like this. It feels a bit like the pack-of-wolves approach that sometimes happens against a fund manager that the other counterparties in the market just don’t like and want to take out of the play. It’s always an insider story that is hard to uncover that causes it, but this has all the earmarks of a short squeeze.
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] M [/dropcap] IB III is Barry Sonnenfeld’s latest MIB installment after 10 years since MIB II. Some might say that’s too long to retain the spark, but I think Sonnenfeld had it right that after the modest reaction to MB II, he needed to cool things off and introduce a radically new element.
The new element is in the form of Josh Brolin, who is a perfect version of a younger K (Tommy Lee Jones). Now, where the casting works so well, the Deus Ex Machina of time travel and running into oneself in the fourth dimension is decidedly old news. And unfortunately, it is that aspect which tends to define this film more than any other. It just isn’t so special any more to see alien creepy crawlers acting like normal earthlings. Somewhere between Star Wars XXX and The Matrix XXX, this whole program has been overplayed.
That said, Will Smith as Agent J is the same wholesome bundle of optimism he usually exudes. It’s been a while since we’ve seen The Fresh Prince and I must say, that alone may bring the box office this film needs.
The idea of taking the earth’s safety back to the original 1969 Apollo moon launch was an interesting choice given that the release date for MIB III coincided so well with NASA commercializing space travel by having Élon Musk’s SpaceX become the delivery truck to the International Space Station. Maybe MIB IV will be about the privatization of the MIB organization with O (Emma Thompson) as the newly overpaid CEO using the time machine to REALLY backdate those options…….
MIB III has its entertaining g movements of familiarity and freshness, but mostly it’s a yawn.
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] O [/dropcap] K, we know Oliver Stone was on this story in 1987 when the first notable crash of our lifetimes took place. Give the guy credit (bad word during a credit crisis…kudos perhaps), he held off from making the sequel until there was another real crash to let us ponder just how good greed really is.
Michael Douglas is the man. Whatever else he ever does, he will always be Gordon Gekko… and this time he sneeks to London to start what…I didn’t hear you…oh yeah, a hedge fund. Why be Ivan Boesky when you can be Raj Rajaratnam, right? Shia LaBeouf has a long way to go to be Charlie Sheen, but that’s not a journey for the faint of heart. The crotch rocket race against Josh Brolin (aka Jamie Dimon) was good stuff and it’s nice to see that wet leaves don’t scare these guys riding 9/9 in Duchess County. Frank Langella was a wonderful mash-up of Ace Greenberg and Jimmy Cayne, but Eli Wallach was hard to place in his role as “Julie Steinhardt”…he was too frail to be doppelganger Michael, so maybe a nod to an aging Walter Wriston or Lewis Preston?