Gangster Squad – Pretty Gruesome, But Funny Too

I watched this for Emma Stone

Cynthia and I at times can be pretty business-like with each other, when it comes to movie outing.  After crawling through the usual Orchard Saturday traffic – which TK and us always forget and regret not watching a movie on a Sunday instead – at the basement car park lift lobby, I turned to Cynthia and asked, “Give me run through of what we are going to watch, would you?”

Her immediate response was, “No idea.  You like the girl and I like the guy.  That’s about it.”

True.  She picked Gangster Squad because of Ryan Gosling.  And I Emma Stone.  TK too insisted that he wouldn’t want to give this a miss because of Emma Stone.

I did not know what to expect.  This film is inspired by a true story set in the ’40s and ’50s.  LA was run by gangsters, many police officers were bribed, and the residents seemed cool with it.  It was a way of life until Sergeant John O’Mara (played by Josh Brolin) came into the picture.  As a WWII veteran and a war hero, he has no plan to yield to the gangster boss Mickey Cohen played by Sean Penn.  Unable to strike the gang as a police officer, John – secretly supported by the Chief – recruited a squad to deal with the gang.  The approach was controversial and the results could at times be hilarious.  Mickey Cohen was ruthless.  You have got to have a strong stomach for the crime he did against others.

Gangster Squad feels authentic, as though I was transported back in time.  Those hairstyles, and costumes.  Cynthia and I cracked every time when John took out a gigantic wireless phone radio (edit: Thanks to TK for the correction).  Sean Penn has acted exceptionally well in this movie.  There were moments when he appeared as spaced out, and uninterested; there were moments when he was as sharp as a fighter, so full of energy – verbally and physically.  Josh Brolin is perfect for the role, as an honest and no-nonsense officer.  Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are charming, despite having a rather small role in Gangster Squad.

For some strange reasons, this film reminds me of Al Pacino’s 1983 film Scarface.  Sean Penn and Emma Stone would be a good fit for Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer’s roles.  One particular line struck me as quite quote worthy:

To lose everything and win the war, that is a hero.  To lose everything but lose the war, that’s a fool.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – A Worthy Sequel

Thanks to, we have received a pair of tickets to watch the world premiere of “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” at our favorite cinema in town – The Cathay.  I can’t remember when I watched the original film “Wall Street (1987)” on rental (I am really not that old) as my memory on the plot was fuzzy.  It would be a good idea to grab a copy and refresh your mind before September 23, when the sequel is opened in theaters.  You may get more kicks from this sequel.

Michael Douglas has won an Oscar for his role in “Wall Street (1987)”.  His return on this sequel as Gordon Gekko comes with great expectation.  I was fully engrossed by his performance throughout the movie.  That fire in his eyes, that emotion.  Some scenes moved me.  British actress Carey Mulligan plays the role of Gordon’s daughter, Winnie.  I love her performance in the award winning movie “An Education“.  And she is a worthy supporting actress for Michael Douglas in this movie – father and daughter in an estranged relationship.  In “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”, Josh Brolin picks up the role as the villain – a hedge fund managing partner.  For some strange reason, I think he has played the role well because his character reminds me of some real life people whom I know and are of that caliber or social status.  In comparison, Shia LaBeouf’s performance as the trader, Jake, may not be as memorable.  But as a whole, the movie has a strong casting.

The beauty of this movie, to me, is the background of the story.  Set during the financial crisis in 2008, the story begins with the collapse of a financial institute that reminds me as part Bear Stearns and part Lehman Brothers, the government’s bail out process, and then the sub-prime crisis that leads to a wider collapse of the banking system.  As someone who is working in this industry and have friends and colleagues who were affected by the financial crisis, this movie captures the sentiment and the background well – the free fall of stock prices, the painful nationalization process.  It relived my memory.  When we now talk about sub-prime, it seems so far away.  But that was only two years ago.

I don’t think that “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” is positioned as a movie primarily to entertain – solid acting aside (although I must say that I was excited by the crisis in the movie while Cynthia didn’t quite feel the same).  And the financial aspect of the story may be challenging for some to follow.  The movie to me is reflective in nature.  For example, through the three main characters – Gordon, Winnie, and Jake – the movie has explored the different aspects of “money does not matter (then what does?)”.  We seem to have a different definition of what money is for.  And there is this concept of moral hazard when no one is responsible in managing money.  The movie also prompts us to reflect upon the economic bubbles that we have created time and time again dated all the way back to the days of tulips (?!).  The movie even attempts to predict what the next bubble would be (wouldn’t it be funny if that turns out to be true?).  The most memorable part of this 133 minutes long movie?  The very dialog that gives forth its title.  For those of you who are going to watch to show, please pay attention to the beginning and ending narration and drop me a comment here on what you think of it for I don’t fully get what the narrator is trying to say.  Thanks in advance!