Gangster Squad, Rampart and All Good Things: 3 Film Reviews Before I Forget Them Completely

Weather report will be here tomorrow. Haven’t taken any pictures yet.

So, with all the anniversary talk, and flooding, and Dragon Age 2, I have neglected to tell you about the last few films that Vanna and I have watched. It’s been a while since we saw them so instead of being vague, and using Wikipedia to fill in the gaps, I’m just going to keep it brief.

Short and concise. For once.

So, let’s begin!

Gangster Squad

L.A Noire in movie form is probably the best way I can describe this. You’ve got Micky Cohen (Sean Penn) causing problems in 1940’s New York, and a cop (Josh Brolin; never heard of him before, but he was really good) determined to beat the rife corruption and take him down. Along with his squad of detectives (including Ryan Gosling), Brolin attempts to cause damage to Cohen’s establishments in order to bring him to his knees. It is a fairly serious topic but the humour injected in from time to time helps to keep things going.

What else can I say? Lots of action, quite a lot of violence (but not overly so) and a very satisfying ending. Everyone is wearing suits and hats, which is pretty cool too. The casting, also, is spot on and I can’t really fault anyone’s performances. Penn is the perfect Mickey Cohen (he had the hardest job of impressing me, but he did it well) and Brolin and Gosling work well off each other. The other members of Gangster Squad are very talented too, and I don’t think I would have enjoyed the film as much without them (even if I don’t name them here). They are all very likeable, and despite Gosling’s presence, Vanna’s favourite character was actually Hopalong (the old Texan who doesn’t miss). If you knew how much she loves Gosling then you’ll realize how big of a compliment that is. Oh, and Emma Stone does her job perfectly too. But my favourite? Probably Keeler, the electronics genius played by Giovanni Ribisi (his name might not sound familiar but his face should).

So yeah, I can’t fault the acting or the story. It isn’t going to win any awards but I don’t care. It was very, very, very enjoyable. And I loved it. Probably the best film we’ve seen this summer (along with Jeff Who Lives At Home).

Score? 9.5/10

(Only Spiderman 1 + 2 of the original trilogy get a 10, but this is fairly close to it; maybe if Spiderman had a cameo I would have reconsidered).

Rampart

Now this was a strange one. I’ve been wanting to watch this for a long time (ever since I heard about it, in fact) but it was not what I was expecting. At all. I still liked it, but Vanna, however, did not enjoy it whatsoever. And I can understand why she felt that way.

But first, what is it about? Well, in the 90’s, there was a huge scandal in L.A (what is it with cops and L.A?) called the Rampart Scandal. Essentially, there were a lot of dirty cops doing dirty things. Taking money, blackmailing, using excessive force… you name it, they were probably doing it.

Rampart follows the story of one particular cop called Dave Brown. Played by Woody Harrelson, he is just as bad as the rest. He’s racist, sexist, a womanizer, a home wrecker (he has two children and two wives who he rarely sees) and he breaks the law. He gets caught up in the scandal after almost beating a man to death, and suddenly all his previous allegations come to the surface.

But, despite this, the force can’t get rid of him.  Brown’s familiarity with the law, and the system, puts them in a difficult position. He’s smart and determined to keep his job, no matter what the cost. His life might be falling apart because of his beliefs, but he holds on to being a cop because he believes that is all he has.

Soon though, you begin to realize that it isn’t a matter of not wanting to change that is stopping him…he just can’t do it. It is all he knows. So he continues to govern the law in his own way (though you wouldn’t believe it, he does have a strict moral code; it just doesn’t follow the real world), while doing his best to hide his misdeeds from the man in charge of bringing him down (Ice Cool).

All in all, it is a very captivating film. It doesn’t really have a linear storyline, so it is easy to get bored or fed up (there isn’t any climax, or revelation to it) but I thought it was clever. I was drawn into his life, and much like the film I’m about to discuss below, it was so interesting to me because it was so different from what I’m used to. I couldn’t relate to the character, but I enjoyed his story nonetheless.

I think this is mostly down to Woody Harrelson. He makes this complete asshole (seriously, this guy is the worst) a very compelling character. He almost makes him likeable, and that says a lot. This horrible person’s life is falling apart, and we should be, you know, happy about it, but I wasn’t. I know I’ve talked a lot about good acting in these reviews, but I’d say his was by far the best for this very reason. So, well done Woody.

To summarize, Rampart is a weird story. Every scene involves Woody Harrelson, which is unusual (I’m struggling to come up with another film that has that setup). It is rather uncomfortable at times too, and you will sometimes wonder where it is actually going…but I thought it was good. I enjoyed it. It was interesting. It isn’t for everybody, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you watch it (unless you’re Vanna of course; but she did agree with me on the acting).

6/10 (though if the plot had a little bit more direction and pace to it, I would have bumped it up to a 9 because Harrelson was that good).

All Good Things

Okay, it’s been a long time since I saw this so I’m really struggling to remember it. Essentially it plots (very loosely) the story of the true disappearance/murder of Kathleen McCormack (name changed in film), played by Kirsten Dunst. Ryan Gosling is the husband, and the man who is blamed for it. The film depicts their life and what happens after the disappearance.

It’s a fascinating story, I can’t deny that. Much like Rampart’s Brown,  I couldn’t really relate to Gosling’s character whatsoever, but that made him more interesting as a result. He was such a disturbed individual (for good reason, but I’ll let you watch the film to find out why), it was truly fascinating to watch him. Though the story is viewed from his perspective, you really struggle to understand him and his thought processes. Or at least I did. Credit to Gosling however; I think he suited the role (I’m becoming more impressed with Gosling with every film I see him in) and it was a very believable performance.

But it wasn’t just him. Most of the characters were dysfunctional. Dunst (who was pretty good too) often made decisions that I couldn’t understand, and while the supporting cast were solid, I found myself wondering why they did the things they did. There was so much happening that you thought was preventable, but I suppose, you could say the same thing about our own lives. The strangeness of the people involved, plus the suspicious circumstances surrounding the disappearance, are probably what encouraged them to do a film based on these events. They were so unusual, you can’t help but be interested in what happened, why it happened, and how it happened.

So yeah…

Hmm.

Even now I’m not sure what I think about the film. It didn’t have a typical plot structure (much like Rampart) which was different (good different, I think), and the fact it was open-ended (the case was never solved) made it even more compelling.  I think intriguing sums it up well. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad either. It was…thoughtful.

Yeah…thoughtful. 6/10. Definitely worth watching. Possibly. It offers an interesting viewpoint on this tragedy, at least. I just wish it had a definitive answer; they had an opinion, of course, but the truth is still unknown. Bah. I hate not knowing!

Uh…on second reading, I don’t think I’ve done this film justice, so don’t let my review put you off. In my defence, it was over two weeks ago when I watched it, so my already confused brain is even more hazy about it. Just see the 6/10 and go for it. You know, if you have time. And fairly average reviews don’t put you off.

Conclusion:

Gangster Squad was by far the best, but if you’re willing to dedicate some time, I think that All Good Things and Rampart are certainly worth watching too. You might occasionally wonder what is going on, but I think the acting and characters allow such moments to be worthwhile.

And, if you are anything like Vanna and myself, you’ll get a lot of discussions out of it. So you should do it for that alone.

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