Zero Dark Thirty vs Gangster Squad

Kenny D January 11, 2013 0
weekend movies, showtime showdown, zero dark thiry, gangster squad, mobster movie, war movie, osama bin laden movie

It’s the second week of January and we have two major movies going head to head. The first is Kathryn Bigelow’s newest war film. It’s technically a 2012 release, but is only being released to wide audiences this week. It’s going up against Ruben Fleischer’s (Zombieland) noir-ish renegade cops and mobsters flick.

Which movie will win the battle of the box office? Will it be the Academy Award nominated drama or the movie where Sean Penn has a bad make up job?

The Gangster Squad
sean penn, bad movie makeup, josh brolin, mob movies, hug it out
Let’s hug it out…

Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling lead up the renegade team of cops looking to scare LA’s most powerful mobster, Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn?) out of town. They’ve been tasked to terrorize every mob facility so that no gangster will ever consider Los Angeles a safe place for crime. Emma Stone plays Cohen’s girl on the side, who is also being swooned by apathetic cop, Gosling. Once the gangster squad is compiled with good cops (Robert Patrick, Michael Pena, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi), they crash every mobster party and start every wild west shoot out they possibly can. Meanwhile Sean Penn reads about the attacks and throws down the daily newspaper in disgust, just like any good Dick Tracy villain would.

And that’s just it. This is feels just like a Dick Tracy movie. It is definitely larger than life and more bombastic than it needed to be. Every time a character spoke, they were spouting off cliche 1940’s lines like, “Who’s that sweet tomato sitting over there?”

I hated this movie for the first 30 minutes. The character introductions and set up were so forced to feel like a period movie and it just felt manufactured. But something happened in the second act…they all just stopped talking. All of a sudden there were car chases, heists and shoot outs. And it became a much better movie. Once I convinced myself that this was basically a noir-fantasy film I found it quite watchable. None of the character motivations felt real.

If there was a high point, it was Robert Patrick’s Wyatt Earp-type gun slinging cop character. He was good for one-liners and mild comic relief. I am disappointed in Ryan Gosling. I loved him in the movie Drive, but it seems like he gravitates towards characters with soft voices. No thanks. He had chemistry with Emma Stone, who he worked with in Crazy, Stupid, Love, but I didn’t care much for their relationship. She could have been the damsel in distress and I wouldn’t have felt much emotion.

This movie is not terrible, it’s just very shallow. It’s easy to watch. I think Josh Brolin is getting ready for his upcoming Oldboy role by playing a violent character. Sean Penn playing the role of Cohen is surprising. And not in a good way. This would have been a better career choice for him in the 90’s.

Gangster Squad is a rental. Some may enjoy it, but it’s a very violent movie which could have been a crowd pleasing PG-13. Keep your eye out for the cop who can throw knives as if they were Chinese stars.

Zero Dark Thirty
osama movie, jessica chastain, oscar snubs, best picture, war movie, terrorism movie
“I found the stowaway ginger, sir…”

I wanted to dislike this movie. I wanted to go against the grain and feel “meh” about this highly acclaimed war drama. But I just couldn’t. I would actually define this movie as a “war on terrorism” drama. On paper, that sounds quite boring, but it keeps your attention for the entire 157 minutes.

Jessica Chastain carries this movie. There is a solid reason she is the front-runner for Best Actress. She enters this movie as a weak character overseeing torture/interrogations being done by Jason Clarke (Lawless). For a year she has nothing to show for herself, but gets a mysterious lead about a high ranking courier for the Taliban. She becomes obsessed with exacting justice and ends up working to find this man for 7 years. The movie culminates with the siege on Osama Bin Laden’s fortress.

This movie is essentially the Jessica Chastain show. There are several great actors around her, but they are overshadowed by this woman who has lost friends and a great deal of time tracking down a ghost.

The previews heavily focus on the siege at the end of the movie. You won’t see the Seal Team Six until 2 hours in, but when you do it becomes a nail-biting experience. It’s odd that I knew the outcome of this story, but I still felt nervous during the entire siege. This movie knows how to make you emotionally involved, whereas The Gangster Squad just threw elements on screen and hoped you cared about someone along the way.

I was very surprised that no political agenda was pushed. Perhaps that’s a big reason Kathryn Bigelow wasn’t nominated for an Oscar this time around. You definitely realize that torture is terrible. The first 30 minutes spend a great deal of time showing waterboarding and humiliation. But it’s almost like watching an episode of 24. You are sickened by torture, but want the baddies to spill their guts and help Jack Bauer complete his mission.

Go see this movie. It’s long, but enthralling. It’s not action heavy until the end, but it manages to take you along for the ride.

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