Justification of violence – Gangster Squad

Ganster Squad - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Ganster Squad – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Gangster Squad (2013)

Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writers: Will Beall, Paul Lieberman (book)
Stars: Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

I have been seeing a trend in American pop culture of the justification of violence. It’s apparently okay to kill the bad guys as long as you only kill the bad guys. If you look at Dexter, Arrow, Justified, Burn Notice, among other TV shows and films, you see this trend of the “good guys” fighting against the “bad guys” using the bad guys techniques against them. I’m not sure I agree with that philosophy of justice. There is something wonderful about Law & Order and the process of justice and law that treats the bad guys as people. The idea that you are innocent until proven guilty has meant that a lot of innocent people have been able to prove their innocence even with the authorities trying to prove them guilty. But what do you do when someone has bought their freedom and their position so far up the ladder that they can get away with tearing a man apart by chaining him between two cars? That’s the kind of evil you are dealing with in Gangster Squad. With all witnesses scared to death to testify you can get away with murder, literally.

This film is violent, that was what was expected, I mean it is a gangster film, but it’s not just violent, it questions the morals and values we have about justice and law and order. Both the good guys and the bad guys are as bad as each other. They are killing people left, right, and centre and show no remorse. It is a necessary evil for the good guys because of what they are dealing with. But in the end it isn’t the violence that takes down Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) and his gang, it is the testimony of a bold witness, Grace Faraday (Emma Stone) who was Cohen & Sgt. Jerry Wooter’s (Ryan Gosling) lover. She was bold enough and protected enough to testify to take Cohen down. The justice system does still work; going against the law just amplifies the body count in the end.

Gangster Squad is an entertaining gangster film but it doesn’t do anything different to any other gangster film and so was slightly disappointing. It was dark and gloomy like other gangster films and even with it’s moments of light humour it didn’t move from the basic structure of a gangster film. To be honest I love the formula of gangster films, but I went in with the expectation that this would be different. I shouldn’t have been surprised that it wasn’t and it wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, it was just that it was unoriginal. Even with it being built upon a true story it was unadventurous. It’s a fun story and the acting is brilliant but it failed to inspire me.


Yay, something new and different for us – The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

The Amazing Spider-Man – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Director: Marc Webb
Writers: James Vanderbilt (screenplay and story), and Alvin Sargent (screenplay), and Steve Kloves (screenplay), Stan Lee (Marvel comic book) and Steve Ditko (Marvel comic book)
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans

I was fairly excited about a new Spider-Man film. Emma Stone is one of my favourite actresses, she is my female crush and I was super excited to see her take on Gwen. After loving The Social Network and the amount of depth Andrew Garfield brought to his character in it, I anticipated a new depth to Peter Parker as well and was excited to see what he would bring to the picture. The previews made it look amazing and blockbuster beautiful. And so I took myself off to the cinema, got my popcorn, and sat waiting in anticipation for the film to begin.

I have to say, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield lived up to my expectations. They were brilliant! As was Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Peter Parker’s aunt and uncle. Their performances brought a humour and emotional depth to the film which made it genuine and real. However, the narrative failed to capture my imagination to the extent that I was hoping for. I suppose after The Avengers I was expecting something as great, but it just didn’t do anything new. And I suppose there isn’t much new you can do with a comic adaptation because fans expect certain aspects of the original to be included. But apart from the monster being a different person from the 2002 adaptation, there wasn’t much new. Oh and Gwen is a much more likable character than Mary-Jane in my opinion, but that’s a secondary point.

I really wanted there to be more back story about Parker’s father and mother to be revealed. It was introduced as a main influencing factor into Peter’s reasoning for why he was the way he was but then was just used as a plot device to introduce him to Dr Curt Connors/The Lizard (Rhys Ifans, Notting Hill). It was disappointing to say the least. There was so much you could have done with that back story to influence Peter’s motives and the narrative could’ve been much more interesting. However, this was not the case. And maybe it is my naivety about Spider-Man the comics that means they couldn’t have explored that particular storyline anymore without outrage from fans but I thought it was underdone.

The film as a whole was entertaining and Garfield and Stone have a great, awkward chemistry on screen. There is a great scene in the halls of the school which is so endearing that from that point on you just love both the characters to bits. I really just wanted to giggle and jump up and down with Gwen after that scene and was on board with her character from that point on. Garfield’s Parker is likable, genuine, and understatedly hilarious at points. The graphics are brilliant and seeing it in 3D is kind of worth the extra dollars. The action scenes of Spider-Man flying around the city are possibly the best thing about this film, next to Stone and Garfield, which is also kind of sad when there was so much potential for more.

All in all the film was good but disappointing. I really hope the next one has a more interesting narrative to carry it along, and better character development. For a franchise that has done so well in the past it is surprising they didn’t put a more unique twist on this new adaptation. I suppose copyright pressures are what drove it to be made in the first place and so we can’t expect much but with all the talent in the world surely the next one will be better. Right?