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Gangster Land Review

Gangster Land is a 2017 crime thriller about America’s most famous mobsters and their rise to power.

There’s something about the classic gangster, as immortalized in cinema through a number of high profile films that practically established the tropes, including the Godfather franchise and The Untouchables, that seems endlessly fascinating. The shootouts, the clothes, the snappy dialogue. It’s great fun. Now comes Timothy Woodward Jr.‘s latest Gangster Land, a well-made if not familiar film that journeys along some well worn ruts but does so with plenty of style and even more ambition.

Starting in the ring, we meet up and coming pugilist Jack McGurn (Sean Faris), an Italian pretending to be Irish because they get the crowds on their side. He’s a tough and scrappy kid who wants to go pro, hoping to save his parents failing mom and pop shop who are on the wrong side of the Genna crime family. Jack is tempted into the mafia but hesitates until his stepfather is murdered, deciding to join up with a guy named Al Capone (Milo Gibson), who at this point, is working for Johnny Torrio (Al Sapienza), thinking this is the road to revenge. With his fists, he makes a good impression, giving up boxing to go full time gangster, moving up along with Capone, ending up on a deadly path to a bloody Valentine’s massacre.

Woodward Jr. is a busy guy, cranking out a lot of indie films in the past few years, and while I haven’t always been on board with some, I really liked his earlier Hickok, a retelling of the famous old West gunslinger that I thought was well cast. When I spoke with him about it, he mentioned that he’s a real history buff, and so it’s not all that surprising to see that he’s sticking to the past once more, this time in the 1920s, and like many of his movies, heavy with themes of violence and revenge. To his credit, Gangster Land does take to the times well, and while sure, the budget might leave it lacking what a big studio production could whip up with some expensive CGI, it’s pretty good looking here, having an old time serial feel to it. In truth, it’s one of Woodward’s most accomplished films yet, with some well-defined characters and a couple of well-directed action moments.

Faris makes for a decent outing as the inside man to the well-worn story of Capone, played here with a sort of deadpan anti-bravado we’ve come to expect from the character. Gibson, who is Mel’s son, is iron-jawed and blue-eyed, keeping it mostly low-key, while everything around him gets explosive. There’s a few other familiar faces here, including Jason Patric as a straight as an arrow detective, and Michael Paré as one of the baddies. We also get good work out of Jamie-Lynn Sigler as a dancer named Lulu, who gets involved romantically with McGurn, giving the story it’s only real sense of humanity. She’s very good. 

Gangster Land doesn’t try to hide its influences and knows what sells in terms of what makes a movie like this work. It’s an ultra low budget flick, embracing the clichés with a whole lotta gusto, with cooky 20s-esque dialogue and dapper costumes, but even with that, is a genuinely enjoyable bit of fun if you let it in, like a vintage comic book come to life. I’m a sucker for old-time gangster-type movies, and while many might not see the appeal of another run at Capone, fans of such will have plenty to sink their teeth into.

Gangster Land Review

Movie description: Gangster Land is a 2017 crime thriller about America's most famous mobsters and their rise to power.

Director(s): Timothy Woodward Jr.

Actor(s): Sean Faris, Milo Gibson, Jason Patric

Genre: Action

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