Sunday, January 27, 2013

Gangster Squad

       There have been many wonderful gangster movies over the years. This is not one of them. But that isn't to say you won't have a good time watching "Gangster Squad".

            First of all, it has a great cast led by Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Sean Penn. It also features Emma Stone, Robert Patrick, Michael Pena, Anthony Mackie and Nick Nolte. Second of all, it has plenty of action. What it lacks is any depth.

            The look and feel of the period is right. The story is "inspired" by real events but it's all flash and no substance. Ms. Stone is miscast and Mr. Penn plays the gangster Mickey Cohen in a cartoonish performance complete with cartoon makeup.  The dialog is pretty silly and there are plot holes galore but it's still fun to watch Mr. Brolin and company take on Mickey Cohen and his thugs. 

             January is traditionally a dumping ground for Hollywood and "Gangster Squad" definitely has that "sat on the shelf" feel but it's expiration date still has a few weeks left. You could do better (rent "L.A. Confidential") but you could also do a lot worse.

The Impossible

        The emotional and gut retching true story of one family's nightmare that was the tsunami of 2004. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star as parents of three young boy on Christmas holiday in Thailand who are caught right in the middle of the deadly wave that killed thousands. 

           The first half of the film is riveting. The recreation of the wave and the destruction it brought is remarkable. Watching the very realistic way the family is torn apart is heartbreaking. Ms. Watts and her oldest son, played by a terrific Tom Holland, manage to find each other but both are wounded physically and emotionally by the impact of the wave.

            Later on we find out what has happened to Mr. McGregor and the other two boys and the second half of the film becomes an emotional journey to reunite a family.

            This is not an easy film to enjoy but the resolve of these two people and their sons gives you the strength to stay the course. Many films say they are inspired or based on a true story. This film makes the claim "true story" in the opening moments. Whether or not you feel manipulated or find the story drifting into melodrama, you are watching what really happened and can't walk away unaffected. It is a powerful film with wonderful performances by it's lead actors.