Posts Tagged ‘gangsters’

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Criminally Overlooked: “Last Man Standing”

January 23, 2016

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New Line Cinemas might have been forgiven for thinking they had a sure-fire hit—or at least a modest box office winner—with Last Man Standing. After all, here was a bang-bang-shoot-‘em-up action film headlined by a still-hot Bruce Willis just two years after the monster success of Pulp Fiction, and directed by action-film maestro Water Hill. Unfortunately, Last Man Standing sunk like a Russian submarine at the box office when it opened in 1996, and while Bruce Willis’s reputation emerged unscathed (as it would continue to for the next fifteen of mostly terrible films), it hastened Walter Hill’s descent into Hollywood obsolescence. Twenty years later it’s worth taking a second look.
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In Memory of Bob Hoskins: “The Long Good Friday”

May 1, 2014

The Long Good Friday begins with Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins) swaggering off a Concorde and through Heathrow Airport with the arrogance of a lion inspecting its patch of the Serengeti (or wherever lions live) while a ‘70s-era saxophones wail on the soundtrack. The jazz might as well be Harold’s own personal theme music, since, as we quickly learn, he came up hard in the underworld of the London docks, defeated all contenders, built a criminal empire, and is now poised to make a killing developing the very docks Harold tamed. He wears a perfectly-tailored, cream-colored suit; keeps with a beautiful, intelligent mistress (Helen Mirren); and splits his time between his penthouse apartment and yacht moored on the Thames. Harold, if anyone, deserves wah-wah saxophones playing while he walks. The Long Good Friday is about the 48 hours in his life in which he tears it all down. It’s a great movie—one which secures Bob Hoskins in the pantheon of brilliant actors—and it more than deserves its place as my 300th post.
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He cometh and he killeth, too: “The Iceman”

October 10, 2013

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Richard Kuklinski, the titular Iceman of Ariel Vromen’s film, is a stone cold killer in a way that pushes that description as close to the literal as is humanly possible. He was a loving husband and father, but also a mainline psychopath who is believed to have killed over 100 people, and felt not a thing about it—not remorse, excitement, or even satisfaction. He killed people the way one flicks a light switch when they enter a room: just an act without any meaning attached to it. Suffice it to say, there’ll never be an FX series featuring this guy as another sympathetic/repulsive anti-hero. To his credit, Vromen—who co-wrote and directed this film—does the only logical thing you can do with a character like Kuklinski: he treats him like the monster from a horror movie.
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What went wrong: “Dick Tracy”

March 14, 2013

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In the summer of 1990, movie execs (particularly those at Disney) were convinced that the upcoming Dick Tracy was going to be that summer’s Batman. It, too, was based upon a long-running comic character. It was written by Top Gun scribes Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. It starred and was directed by Warren Beatty. It featured Madonna, fer chrissakes! What, possibly, could go wrong? Okay, did you read any of the stuff I just wrote? Yeah? Then you know what could wrong. I mean, that calculation only works if you live in Bizarro World and sit around shaking your square head, saying, “Me no understand. Me am think Dick Tracy am movie good.” Yeah, but when you throw 110% of the movie’s budget at advertising, well, hell, you can convince people of anything.
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Bullets, broads, guyliner, and hair gel: “Mobsters”

January 13, 2013

movie_7206As I mentioned in my review of Gangster Squad, that movie put me in mind of Mobsters—a movie that I saw upon its release in 1991 (my girlfriend was a big Christian Slater fan) and haven’t thought about since…a couple days later in 1991. Now, as with Gangster Squad, this is not a “good” movie per se. It’s not really even an adequate one. It’s, well, it’s a pretty bad one. What surprised me upon revisiting this film 20 years later is that it’s actually not that much worse than Gangster Squad. As a matter of fact, it’s probably better plotted than Gangster Squad and any number of other mid-range movies released this year. And that’s pretty depressing, because Mobsters is not a film that should be almost better than anything.
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It’s like if LA Confidential and Chinatown got together and had a lobotomy: “Gangster Squad”

January 12, 2013

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So, here we have Gangster Squad, a movie that promises to be like Public Enemies, starts out like Mulholland Falls and ends up being more like a remake of Mobsters. Remember Mobsters? Probably not, but that’s okay. It was like a brat-pack Godfather made back when Hollywood thought Richard Greico and Christian Slater were gonna be the next big things. Yeah, it was a weird time. Anyway, Gangster Squad is a lot like that movie in that it takes an actual historical event—in this case LAPD Chief Richard Parker’s off-the-books war on gangster Mickey Cohen—and makes it into a cheap, lurid dime-store novel. On this measure, the movie’s not half-bad. I mean, it’s not really that good mind you, but…hey, it’s January. It’s like a desert in those multiplexes.
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Second time’s the charm: Sequels that are better than the original

February 21, 2012

More often than not, sequels are a bad idea, and usually little more than a mercenary cash-grab that trades on the familiarity of the original. That is especially true now, in the time of direct-to-DVD retailing that allows franchises to continue ad-infinitum. But it was true even in the days before DVD and even home video. Was there ever a reason for The Sting 2? Or The French Connection 2? Or even Jaws 2? I mean, beyond the promise of filthy lucre? No, not at all. And yet, every so often we get a kind of unicorn—a sequel that eclipses the original. They’re not so rare as all of that, yet still they are the exception to the rule. Still, with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance being a much more fun film than its predecessor, it seems like a good time to look at some of these outliers. The one that always springs to mind first for me is…

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