Gangsters, Gangsters, Read All About It!
A real palpable odor, which is both discomforting and disorienting, overwhelms me: Something stinks...and no, I'm not talking about Slider from Top Gun, because as you know, Maverick proved him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, what reeks has the unfamiliar tinge of frustration. Maybe it's the frustration of Boardwalk Empire, a de facto must watch show from last year, which, on the eve of its season finale, has miserably underperformed; naturally high expectations, for me at least, unmet.Or maybe it's the fact that Martin Scorsese, the unquestioned architect of the Mafioso aesthetic and unequivocally, my favorite director, has been absent from my life (beyond an occasional re-watch of his classics).
The source of my discontent, one may suspect, derives from the seemingly impenetrable landscape of superhero flicks; specifically, the intertextual, cheesy, effects-laden signature of modern capers. Hampered by degenerative characterizations and devoid of original enterprise, these hackneyed productions feature masked vigilantes—nothing more than superpowered mechanisms of merchandise—shamelessly I submit, in the pursuit of green (moolah). I'm looking squarely at you, The Green Hornet and Green Lantern. Sheesh, will it ever end?
Perhaps the pivotal reason for my gangster funk—and I'm not talking about Warren G or Westcoast gangster rap—is attributable to a sobering realization: My immense love of the genre is enormously high, too much so, that any remunerative enjoyment is remote. Such enjoyment represents, to quote Hot Tube Time Machine, my "Great White Buffalo." As the Rolling Stones famously quipped, "I can't get no satisfaction." In other words, words without the stain of pop culture, I should consider perhaps placing my unadulterated faith in a new genre, give up on gangsters altogether. To date, however, the only thing I've given up on, superhero excess not included, rhymes with Screwy Ball: Would you like some more BloodRayne? Personally, I'd rather subject myself to the Ludovico Technique from A Clockwork Orange. Besides, I'm not one to quit. In terms of filmic DNA, Rudy Ruettiger is my equal. The only option I deem apropos is one with a firm hand on the tiller.
Therefore, in absolute hyperbolic fashion, I shall tattoo October 19, 2012 on my chest for it will either mark a day I will madly cherish or, like The Scarlet Letter, serve as an indelible reminder of my whimsical folly. The accompanying shame would be minimal because I'm talking figuratively. I will not be getting an actual tattoo. Nonetheless, I am confident that in the Fall of 2012—no, not the Apocalypse, but the actual season, you know Autumn—my foolhardy stunt will yield, on a David Blaine-performing-street-magic-level, resounding applause. Prescience would be the apt motivator.
Why do you ask? Because October 19, 2012 is the projected release date for Gangster Squad. Yes, the very movie I wrote about before undertaking my many mis-adventures; the movie that spawns comparisons, unfounded or judicious, to one of the best films of the 90's, L.A. Confidential—which I revisited. My follow-up verdict: Hanson's film is an impeccable masterpiece, so rich in nuance and meticulous detail that a second viewing left me speechless. While Gangster Squad may fail to measure up to dramatic zenithal of Wendell "Bud" White and Edmund J. Exley, at least on a surface level, it does provide a robust opportunity—given the stellar cast, tantalizing story, and likely direction—to nullify, even if only for an uncertain duration, the beleaguered, gratuitous, and oversaturated imprint of the superhero picture.
Only a force greater than the power of social networking could stymie the overwhelming proliferation of superhero films: Ruben Fleischer, the director behind one of my favorite films from 2009, Zombieland, is tasked with the highbrow responsibility. My only fear, beyond unfamiliarity with the all-too important script, which I'm taking a leap of faith in assuming is strong, is the tonal and atmospheric approach of Fleischer. So long as he eschews any satirical, comedic-driven bend, forfeits any formalist allusions to Zombieland—while exemplary, its mise-en-scène is antithetical to a gangster period piece—and so long as he strives for an authentic criminal universe, then Gangster Squad is prime for vociferous FilmMattic consumption. Not only is Great Expectations the name of a famous Dickens novel, but it's also a rally point in my ardent quest to rediscover my love of gangster films. Unscrupulous, mostly amoral sons-of-bitches take up arms against sometimes imperceptible forces of good: That premise, housed in a non-hyperrealistic, non-cosmic universe, hits me harder than a Mike Tyson uppercut.
To hold me over, and for your viewing pleasure, EW unveiled the first official promotional photo for Gangster Squad. It depicts a conspicuous adversarial clash between Josh Brolin of Goonies fame and "Stoner" Spicoli, all grown up; Brolin is an LA cop and Spicoli is notorious LA gangster Mickey Cohen. The picture is not particularly revelatory save for the fact that both actors are donning period-appropriate suits. Such steadfast design is crucial to the authentic criminal atmosphere. While it is merely a scintilla of visual detail, hopefully, it bodes well for the encompassing look of the film.
Gangster Squad is based on a series of LA Times articles, which traced the LAPD's efforts to retrench the seeming preponderance of organized crime in post-WWII LA. The film stars Nick Nolte (loved him in Warrior), Ryan Gosling (loved him in Drive), Anthony Mackie (loved him in The Adjustment Bureau), Michael Pena, Emma Stone, and Giovanni Ribisi.
Does anyone else share my enthusiasm or am I the only cinephile, jaded by the supersaturation of superheroes and charmed by the cinematic life of gangsters, drinking the Kool-Aid? Like the lure of the siren's song, who among us can resist?