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Mini-Reviews: Gangster Squad, Broken City, Bullet to the Head

Gangster Squad (now on DVD/Blu-Ray):

All of the good will director Ruben Fleischer earned with his delightful handling of the film Zombieland has officially been squandered. Gangster Squad, bizarrely leaden for a pulpy 1920s gangster film, mostly consists of Josh Brolin squinting, Ryan Gosling smugly mugging, Michael Pena collecting a check, and Sean Penn hamming it up in the most brutal way imaginable. There’s nothing more fun in genre pictures than a hammy villain, but somehow, Sean Penn makes everything less fun. Fleischer shoots all of this with the most dull color palate one can possibly choose. None of it is exceptionally bad, it’s just all so exceptionally unexceptional. It’s the type of film you’ll wander across on cable one night, watch five minutes, and think, “Hey, this movie wasn’t as bad as I remember,” only to invariably change the channel five minutes later. The gangster genre is one of my favorites– even the most cliche-riddled gangster films are immensely watchable with the right dialogue, pacing, and performances. The hard-boiled dialogue of Gangster Squad occasionally reveals that, if handled with a defter touch, this property had the potential to be a good time. Instead, you’re likely to find yourself thinking about all the better films you could be watching.

Broken City (now on DVD/Blu-Ray):

Broken City is the newest Mark Wahlberg-as-a-cop-or-something flick that Hollywood seems to crank out every January and/or early fall. I’m sure there are people who love watching Wahlberg do his gruff thing, and if you are one of these people, take my review with a grain of salt, as Wahlberg gruffs it up for an interminable amount of time here. Russell Crowe hams it up as New York’s mayor here, and it’s joyous watching him debate fellow mayoral candidate Barry Pepper, himself a professor at Hammy Supporting Role University (Pepper seems to relish more than ever these three-or-four scene roles in which he gets to scream, cry, and bug his eyes out). Israeli cinematic newcomer Alona Tai is the only performance in the film with any heart, and Jeffrey Wright shows up, so consistently good in everything that it’s easy to take for granted just how good he is, even here. However, I’d rather watch them in something else– anything else. Unfortunately, most of this film consists of watching Wahlberg slog through the usual cop/detective stuff, including the most bizarre B-story I’ve ever seen in a film; his girlfriend, played by Natalie Martinez, is an actress, and when Wahlberg watches her have sex in her new film, he falls off the wagon, dumps her… and that’s it. It has absolutely no bearing on the rest of the film whatsoever. Broken City was directed by Allen Hughes, but it doesn’t have the style or wit of the Hughes Brothers’ other outings. It’s a shame to watch so many talented people get bogged down in just another forgettable Wahlberg film.

Bullet To The Head (on DVD/Blu-Ray July 16):

If I’d been told in the 1980s that Walter Hill, director of 48 Hours and The Warriors, was helming a Sylvester Stallone action flick, I’d be drooling with anticipation. Even nowadays, with Stallone’s recent resurgence, I was pretty excited. Unfortunately, Bullet To The Head is a slowly paced slog: never terrible, but totally un-engaging. It partners a hitman (Stallone) with a cop (Sung Kang, wasted here), as they both try to exact revenge for the deaths of their partners, killed by a drug kingpin (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, wasted here) and a sleazeball (Christian Slater… perhaps wasted here, but it’s Christian Slater, so hard to tell). The action is tired, the dialogue forced, the subplot involving Stallone’s daughter (Sarah Shahi, most wasted of all) a dud. However, every now and then, there’s a movie that’s a stinker, save for one performance, and Bullet To The Head qualifies. Jason Momoa, Khal Drogo from TV’s Game of Thrones, works as a contract killer for the kingpin, and he’s so charismatic and such a dominating physical presence that the movie roars to life each time he steps onto the screen. The Conan the Barbarian reboot tanked: can someone PLEASE give Momoa a major Hollywood franchise? Please?

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~ by russellhainline on July 9, 2013.

One Response to “Mini-Reviews: Gangster Squad, Broken City, Bullet to the Head”

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