- Released Internationally on 10/01/13
- Released in Malta by KRS on 10/01/13
Great film noirs, especially those set in the earlier part of the last century, are hard to find nowadays. The last one I can think of is The Black Dahlia. That timeless look and feel is something that some directors get just right, and which is wonderful when it works. I doubt we’ll ever get another Chinatown or LA Confidential, but as long as they keep trying, I’ll keep watching. This latest one suffered a slight hiccup last summer due to a scene in the film in which gangsters open fire on a theatre audience, which made releasing it a bad idea after the Aurora shootings at the Dark Knight Rises midnight screening. The release date was moved, but it’s yet to be confirmed whether the scene was left in place. Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men), Ryan Gosling (Drive), Emma Stone (The Help), Sean Penn (Milk) and Nick Nolte (The Thin Red Line) star.
This star-studded gangster film is no Goodfellas, although it does try to emulate it at times and comes quite close. Josh Brolin’s central character is a reliable one, and much like in No Country for Old Men he manages to portray determination and sobriety as the main hero. Sean Penn’s portrayal of the main antagonist is less successful, on the other hand. He has enough menace and presence to be convincing as the man pulling all the strings in Los Angeles, but his dubious accent and odd facial prosthetics are distracting. He leaves no doubt as to what he is capable of, however, with methods of killing his enemies that are both original and disturbing.
Many regular features of past similar films are present - the dry voiceover, the press conferences by the chief of police, lots of smoking, the scenes in nightclubs (including a wonderful long take, possibly a direct nod to Scorsese) and the flinch-inducing violence. There’s even the policeman’s long-suffering wife, although thankfully here she is given a meatier role which makes for a more interesting character we can actually care about. The director also throws in some of his own touches, with stylish slow-motion shots which he used to wonderful effect in Zombieland.
The cast all perform wonderfully, and the plot moves along at a captive pace without showing any signs of missing the infamous replaced scene (see above). The final showdown is slightly disappointing after the huge build-up, but everything is tied up nicely in the end in what is an entertaining and well-made, if not hugely original, addition to the gangster film canon.