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;"] D [/dropcap] rive is yet another Ryan Gosling film and this time he’s not only very low key and quiet, but he is also viciously violent. Gosling plays a movie stunt man who lives a quiet private life in L.A. (can you do that?) and drives for stick-ups on the side (that sounds more like L.A.). We learn early on that he is a very exacting and precise in his profession. He is also unusually reclusive.
Gosling’s neighbor is cute-as-a-button Carey Mulligan, the newest version of Meg Ryan. She and her son are the target of Gosling’s rough-edged kindness. This continues even as Mulligan’s husband gets out of prison. Naturally, the hubby is less precise than Gosling and proceeds to entangle Gosling with the real bad guys ( not mob and not Russian….but older and convincingly ruthless) played by Albert Brooks and Hellboy Ron Perlman.
Drive is all about redemption and justice. It’s not about money, fame or power. That’s kind of like a hedge fund manager who’s still working off his high-water mark rather than shutting down and restarting under a new entity (think John Paulson in 2012). It’s not even about love and happiness. It’s about doing what’s right and protecting innocence against evil. I like to think that there are lots of people like Gosling out there (perhaps minus the hammer). Unfortunately, I’m afraid it ain’t so.
I liked this movie like I like the Dirty Harry movies, not because I admire violence, but because I like the stoicism for which Eastwood and Gosling stand.
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] I [/dropcap] f you really want to hate George Clooney, this will help because he wrote, directed and stars in The Ides of March. The title allusion to Julius Caesar lacks subtlety, but is perfectly appropriate. This is a story of loyalty, deception and betrayal on the campaign trail.
Clooney is the candidate and Ryan Gosling is the young campaign press secretary who works for Philip Seymour Hoffman. The opponent’s campaign manager is Paul Giamatti. Gosling gets tossed into upheaval by Giamatti, who plays on his personal ambitions versus his candidate loyalty. That is the set-up for the whole conflict. It is well written and well orchestrated and we feel Gosling’s angst.
The Ides of March tosses in some sexual tension by Gosling enlisting innocent staffer Evan Rachel Wood and spurning the press advances of Marisa Tomei. Gosling rates sex WAY below power and advancement, so there’s one thing most of us can’t relate to. The other comes when Gosling succeeds in scraping his mistake off onto Philip Seymour Hoffman, who gets fired. PSH walks off and tosses back that it’s no big deal because he’s headed for K Street and a million dollar job…..and you know he hates losing his $100k job. A hedge fund guy would take the money and find a way to make the gig more powerful and not shed a tear over the loss, but, hey, this is politics, where momentary power is all-powerful.
Do you remember the 1974 Robert Redford movie. The Candidate? In that film the ending is more powerful than the rest of the film because Redford wins and says to his campaign manager….”now what?”. It reminds us that the journey has overtaken the destination. At the end of The Ides of March, Ryan Gosling, who has “won” stares at the camera for a long moment. It makes us wonder as Redford did…..whether there is any “there” there behind all the President’s men.