Often a popular movie will inspire other storylines to reach the silver screen, and it’s easy to see that director/writer Timothy Woodward Jr. was inspired by The Untouchables in making Gangster Land. From the punchy dialogue to its propulsive score, Gangster Land definitely takes a few pages from the Brian De Palmaclassic.
That being said, Gangster Land offers new insight into the genre, as we follow the life of Machine Gun Jack McGurn (Sean Faris, effective at being edgy), a former amateur boxer who becomes Al Capone’s (Milo Gibson) right hand man in 1920s Chicago. McGurn is best known as the orchestrator behind the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and, since I’m not one to give away spoilers, the rest of McGurn’s life is also one for the history books.
The Sopranos vet Jamie-Lynn Sigler plays McGurn’s love interest and Peter Facinelli (Twilight) co-starring as Capone and McGurn’s nemesis “Bugs” Moran. A tip of the hat to Woodward Jr. for casting Don Harvey, who worked with De Palma in Casualties of War, as one of the detectives who tries to put McGurn back on the straight and narrow path (Jason Patric is the other cop assigned to clean up Chicago’s crime ridden streets).
The biggest surprise of Gangster Land is that Milo Gibson, son of Mel Gibson, holds his own as Al Capone, and his scenes with Faris simply crackle. Their friendship and mutual savagery is believable, and their chemistry, along with the joy of watching a solid ensemble go to work, make Gangster Land a highly entertaining watch. It may not have the cinematic mastery or production values of The Untouchables, but few films reach that mark anyway. Gangster Land has enough punches in its arsenal to survive more than a few rounds, and it’s great to see McGurn’s life given the cinematic treatment.
Gangster Land is now out on Blu-ray and DVD via Cinedigm.
Now out on Blu-ray and DVD, the Oscar nominated documentary The Look of Silence serves as director Joshua Oppenheimer’s companion piece to The Act of Killing. While both films spotlight the harrowing effects of the 1965 genocide, The Look of Silence takes on the vantage point of Adi, an optometrist whose brother was among the estimated one million people killed during this unspeakable tragedy (The Act of Killing had the actual murderers doing Hollywood recreations of their actions).
During the documentary, Adi visits people who were involved in his brother’s murder, and although most of these conversations begin with checking their eyesight, Adi eventually questions them about their involvement in the genocides. The film’s moniker deals with the “look” that Adi, whose voice is mainly calm and measured during his subtle interrogations, gives during these exchanges. Even though his own life and family’s safety may be in danger with his involvement in the documentary, Adi determinedly moves forward to find a sense of closure to his brother’s death.
Drafthouse Films has given The Look of Silence a first rate treatment in regards to its special features (the movie’s images are crisp and clear, and Oppenheimer’s use of visual lyricism really pops in the Blu-ray version). The disc comes with an informative Q&A with Oppenheimer and executive producer Werner Herzog at the Berlin Film Festival, as Oppenheimer delves into the 10 year undertaking of his two documentaries.
Also included in The Look of Silence Blu-ray is a 20-page booklet which contains an essay on The Look of Silence by film critic Eric Hynes and audio commentary from Oppenheimer and executive producer Errol Morris. Both Herzog and Morris are top tier documentary filmmakers, and listening to them add their insights and praise to The Look of Silence is a plus. Last but not least, the disc also features the film’s trailer and a digital download of The Look of Silence.