True Grit (2010)

TRUE GRIT

Overrated.

I was looking forward to this film, but ultimately it was forgettable, a disappointment. My main problem with this film is the pacing. The majority of the film is slow, building the character of ‘Tom Chaney’ to be this elusive, faceless nemesis, almost being comparable to ‘Keyser Soze’ in ‘The Usual Suspects’. I felt that when or if the clan finally found Chaney it would be a grand stand-off, a chilling confrontation. But, in the back of my mind, it dawned on me that this film was only around the 1 hr 40-50 minute mark; it had the pacing of a film an hour longer than that, it couldn’t afford to be like this. And so it was, very little happened in the first 1 hr 30 minutes, with absolutely everything coming to a head within the next 10 to 15 minutes or so, it felt rushed and created a crushing sense of bathos. Ultimately, the film has a simplistic premise that is, quite frankly, poorly told; stories of retribution have been told better dozens of times.

While the narrative of the film lets it down, the acting does not. Performances from Bridges, Damon and Brolin are all relatively good (if you can put up with Bridges’ incoherence), but it is in Hailee Steinfeld that we see the best performance. The gumption the 14 year-old portrays in her character reveals her great confidence and talent as a young actress; initially it must have been daunting for a girl of her age working with her older, esteemed co-stars.

People I have consulted about the film praised its direction and cinematography, but the similar wide, open landscapes and nail-biting sequences of the Coens’ outstanding ‘No Country For Old Men’ were leaps and bounds ahead. Unfortunately, ‘True Grit’ produced nothing original, nothing that particularly etched itself on my mind.

In conclusion, I am totally bemused by True Grit’s praise and score on Rotten Tomatoes; I have a suspicion that it has something to do with the Coens’ reputation. If the film were directed by a lesser name, I think this film would’ve garnered a much lower score.

60%

Gangster Squad (2013)

GANGSTER SQUAD

A dull, rehashed disappointment

I had read many damning reviews of ‘Gangster Squad’, however I was ready to accept it as mere pulp fiction, and during the opening 40 minutes or so, it seemed like I would be able to, but by the closing credits, I discovered it wasn’t even good enough for that.

The film tells the story, which is ‘inspired by real events’, of a covert group of tough police officers who endeavour to stop Mickey Cohen’s criminal activity encroaching on Los Angeles. Strangely, the film boasts a popular cast with the likes of Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin and Nick Nolte.

It establishes its characters and premise pleasingly enough, but ultimately it fails to deliver through a lack of humour, narrative baggage, clichés and a slew of boring stock characters. The film draws parallels with the infinitely superior ‘LA Confidential’, however there are more similarities with ‘The Expendables’, only without the laughs and nostalgia.

When it attempts to create even a slight portion of pathos, it’s baggy and dull; the film is bereft of any emotional weight whatsoever. The film operated more like a video game than a film, with its silly elaborate action scenes and Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) feeling like the ‘boss’ villain rather than a human character. Actually, that comparison isn’t fair on the gaming industry; I have played and completed ‘Mafia II’, which has far more in the way of developed characters and narrative.

The film’s sole interest is period style; substance and veracity aren’t its top priorities. What occurs on screen is pure fantasy; the extent of its historical accuracy doesn’t go far beyond the fact that there was once indeed a man named ‘Mickey Cohen’ who wasn’t particularly nice.

The allure of 1940s Hollywood and its strong cast will bring ‘Gangster Squad’ to the attention of many people, however it is a formulaic, mediocre and superficial rehashing of films such as ‘Chinatown’ and ‘L.A. Confidential’.

50%