THE LAST PICTURE BLOG

OCCASIONAL NOTES ON FILM

Posts tagged ‘Giovanni Ribisi’

Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer’s Gangster Squad is a fairly derivative take on Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables: in this 2013 film 1940s Los Angeles takes the place of 1920s Chicago, and there are similarities between the two stories, both based on real life events, both involving honest cops tasked with taking down a well-connected and ruthless mobster with the help of a team of spirited misfits. I suppose one can hardly blame the younger, more inexperienced director for sticking rigidly to the same formula successfully employed by de Palma in the 1980s, but sadly, in almost every area in which the two films can be compared, Fleischer’s effort comes off as second best. To begin with, Sean Penn’s one-note crime boss Mickey Cohen is as boring as villains come, and the actor struggles to make anything like the same kind of impact that Robert de Niro delivered with his over-the-top and hugely enjoyable turn as Al Capone, though Cohen does at least exhibit some of Capone’s flair for inventing elaborate or unusual deaths for his underworld enemies. Josh Brolin, meanwhile, is this film’s noble Eliot Ness-alike, John O’Mara; a family man looking to do good, he narrows his eyes and stares off into the middle distance a lot while considering all the moral implications thrown up by his work, which involves disrupting Cohen’s empire by any means necessary. The team of incorruptibles working under O’Mara (played by Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick and Michael Peña) have been given precisely one skill or personality trait each, and they wander round dutifully in the shadow of their leader, each waiting to step out into the limelight for his own brief heroic moment. Gosling’s the only supporting actor who gets an ample amount of screen time, but he’s unwilling to break out of his quiet, cool enigma thing here, and as a result you know as much about his character at the end of the film as you do when he first appears.

Will Beall’s script, meanwhile, is full of clichéd, self-important cop phrases about ‘the honour of men who carry the badge’ and the like, and it contains a dispiriting emphasis on male barking and growling; at one point Brolin sets out the stakes by gruffly telling his men ‘you lose everything and you win the war – you’re a hero. You lose everything and you lose the war – you’re just a fool’ and, rather weirdly, no-one either laughs in his face or calls him a preposterous, overblown c*** afterwards. In fact there is a huge amount of macho, guttural man rumbling in this film. Both Brolin and Penn sound as if they’ve been getting through three packs of Marlboros before their daily morning muesli and yoga sessions, though they are like high-pitched choirboys next to the mighty Nick Nolte, who appears here in a supporting role as a man who has apparently lived a thousand lives with just the one set of vocal chords. Still, despite a lack of originality and all of the assembled masculine posturing Gangster Squad isn’t dreadful, and there’s some impressive noirish production design and costume design to enjoy. Unfortunately there are several dull patches, and Fleischer seemingly can’t break free of them; the action here – which ought to lift the film and make it more entertaining – lacks the flair and imagination that made the set pieces in De Palma’s earlier film so watchable and so enjoyable. Poor old Emma Stone tries to make the best of one of the film’s two token and completely under-written female roles (she’s Cohen’s squeeze, later shacking up with Gosling’s charmer Jerry Wooters), but the director seems to give up on her after a while to concentrate on the throaty man growls. These continue all the way through the film and into its risible epilogue, in which there’s even more self-important talk of honour and cops and cop honour and honourable cops and the honour of cops and how cops are honourable. Meh.

Directed by: Ruben Fleischer.
Written by: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless.
Starring: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick, Michael Peña, Mireille Enos, Sullivan Stapleton.
Cinematography: Dion Beebe.
Editing: Alan Baumgarten, James Herbert.
Music:
Steve Jablonsky.
Certificate:
15.
Running Time:
113 minutes.
Year:
2013.

4 Comments

Though this romantic comedy has been described as mumblecore pioneer Andrew Bujalski’s move from lo-lo-lo-lo-fi indie filmmaking to something approaching mainstream cinema it’s his first film to feature well-known professional actors, for example, and clearly cost more to make than anything else he has produced it’s still refreshingly different to most of the other movies clogging up the market in this tired old genre. What we have is a love triangle, of sorts, involving personal trainer Kat (Cobie Smulders), her health freak boss Trevor (Guy Pearce, reverting to his real accent despite the Austin, Texas setting) and their mutual client Danny (Kevin Corrigan), a newly-divorced and unfit guy who has recently and unexpectedly inherited millions of dollars following the death of his estranged mother. The film explores Kat’s relationships with the two men, and the strange health and money-related relationship that forms between Danny and Trevor.

A lot of people will be put off by the pace of Results, or perhaps by the fact that its writer and director steadfastly avoids some (but not all) of the genre’s conventions, ensuring that some may experience discomfort at no longer being in Kansas. The film plods along, slowly but surely, and Bujalski eschews traditional dynamics between the three main characters: most other rom-coms featuring two men and a women would pit one likable guy against one barely-likeable guy and the lady would eventually choose the partner that the majority of audience members will be rooting for (see Bridget Jones’ Diary, High Fidelity, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Philadelphia Story et al); that’s not the photo_04-695x397case here. Although Trevor’s extreme dedication to healthy lifestyles means he spouts all manner of risible motivational bullshit inside his own gym, he’s essentially a decent and honest guy. And so is Danny, a man who is trying to expand his social circle while also coming to terms with the break-up of his marriage and the unhappiness that comes with his new-found wealth. The intense, irascible Kat is younger than both men, but is seemingly pressured by her age and the idea that she should be out having casual sex that leads nowhere, and is thus unwilling at first to commit to a relationship with either suitor. So where most rom-coms have a principal focus on one party of the potential romance, here there’s equal weight given to all three; as such even as the film enters the final act you’re never quite sure how it’s going to turn out, which is a rarity, and it feels more realistic than the usual fayre we see.

Bujalski shares the same level of interest in his characters and their lives as Richard Linklater, and several ten minute periods drift by where they’re just talking in rooms together, shooting the breeze while nothing much happens. It’s a little self-indulgent, and you may find yourself checking your watch at times, but it does mean that all three feel like well-rounded and believable characters by the end (although the one supporting role, filled by Giovanni Ribisi, feels distinctly underwritten by comparison). It’s not a distinctly funny film, by any means, and it lacks some of the idiosyncratic touches of Bujalski’s earlier work (though there are some), but Results has a certain peculiar charm and it has been a while since I’ve been surprised by the plot of a romantic comedy (though I’m not suggesting there are extreme and unexpected left turns here). As a tentative first step into Hollywood it bodes well, but this director may have to compromise certain aspects of his style if he subsequently decides to jump right in. And it’s nice to see Anthony Michael Hall pop up, albeit briefly.

Directed by: Andrew Bujalski.
Written by: Andrew Bujalski.
Starring: Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Kevin Corrigan, Giovanni Ribisi.
Cinematography: Matthias Grunsky.
Editing: Robin Schwartz.
Music: Justin Rice.
Certificate: 12A.
Running Time: 105 minutes.
Year: 2015.

9 Comments