This Rotten Week: Predicting Gangster Squad and A Haunted House Reviews

By Doug Norrie 2013-01-06 12:11:33discussion comments
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This Rotten Week: Predicting Gangster Squad and A Haunted House Reviews image
Welcome to Rotten Week’s first addition to 2013. It’s going to be a strong year for movies and more importantly, predictions of Tomatometer scores. I can feel it. This week we’ve got gangster squads and haunted houses.

Just remember, I'm not reviewing these movies, but rather predicting where they'll end up on the Tomatometer. Let's take a look at what This Rotten Week has to offer.

Gangster Squad
When examining mob movies, especially ones sprinkled with bits of history I’m fairly fickle guy. Does it need to be, to-the-letter, accurate? Nah. Just give me some historical context, get the names right and leave the fact checking at the door. Everything is more entertaining that way. Did the streets of 1940s Los Angeles turn into a battle zone for tommy gun shootouts and dramatically well-timed explosions? No. Did there exist, ever, at any point a squad of cops who combined the masculine, scowling, crime-fighter bravado with the boyish wit and charm as a group led by Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling? My money is on no. (They diversify exponentially beyond that with Michael Pena, Anthony Mackie and grizzled veteran Robert Patrick. The squad’s a cornucopia.) Did gangster Mickey Cohen have the tight-faced, weathered, almost video game appearance that Sean Penn brings to the big screen? Not according to old pics of the dude.

But none of that really matters for a film like Gangster Squad, a film so unapologetic in its historical discrepancies that it doesn’t even throw a “Based on true [anything]” in the trailer. And while it maybe shouldn’t matter, it might for critics. When a movie looks like extracted more context from a video game (L.A. Noire maybe) than reality, we may be left with a flick that actually just is a video game reel put up on the big screen with a bunch of famous faces. This might not bode well for director Ruben Fleischer.

Much like he tweaked the post-apocalyptic horror script in Zombieland (90%), Fleischer appears hell bent on bringing a new wave feel to the old timey gangster model, putting everyone in the right single-breasted-suit-with-matching-fedora uniform while pushing every other reality of the time to the breaking point. I think with critics, this kind of movie making will come with diminishing returns as the movie might not transport the viewer back to the forties as much as just beat you over the head with the time period. It looks like almost too much.

No doubt the cast is strong, and Fleischer has had success (though he stumbled with 30 Minutes or Less-45%), but I think his latest fails to meet expectations. It’ll fall victim to its own standoff-ish attitude to history. The Rotten Watch for Gangster Squad is 51%

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