Live By Night sits comfortably, if undistinguishedly, between polish and pulp

2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)

 

Live By Night is a “lavish gangster epic” of the sort in which Hollywood used to specialize.

A throwback in more ways than one, it’s also an old-fashioned star vehicle for its director Ben Affleck.

Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane (as was Affleck’s directorial debut), Live By Night sees the Boston native back on home turf — albeit a century out of time— as Joe Coughlin, a smooth stick-up artist who returns to America after the Great War.…

Black Mass is the parable of Johnny Depp and the Good Acting Choice

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

 

Everybody loves a good gangster film.

Whether you prefer the shadowy family drama of The Godfather or the stunning expose of Goodfellas, the criminal lifestyle lends itself to a myriad of different portrayals. In the case of Black Mass, it’s the codependent relationship between the Irish-American Mob in South Boston AKA Southie and the FBI.…

Ryūzō and His Seven Henchmen is a bit of a rabble

2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)

 

For those among us who know him only for cult TV export Takeshi’s Castle, the news that Takeshi Kitano has just made an absurdist comedy might not be surprising.

For fans of both his double-act “Beat” persona and his work starring in/directing the resurrected Zatoichi franchise, Ryūzō and His Seven Henchmen promises cinematic mana.…

Legend is a monument to Tom Hardy’s acting talents

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

 

Looking at the poster for Brian Helgeland’s latest film, Legend, you’d be forgiven you were suffering from (a slightly inexact) double vision.

The names are the same, but the men below them aren’t. Tom Hardy stars along Tom Hardy (himself) as Reginald and Ronald Kray, the notorious twins who held Sixties London in a grip of both fear and awe.…

Escobar: Paradise Lost thrives in the shadow of The Godfather

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

A feared and beloved crime family patriarch relaxes on a compound surrounded by loved ones, there to celebrate a special occasion. There’s music, and one of the clan has brought along their significant other.

So far so The Godfather, though the setting of Esobar: Paradise Lost is more akin to the film’s 1974 sequel, the isolated townships, dirt roads, and tropical forests of Colombia.…

Yakuza Apocalypse is a reheated V-Cinema shambles

1.5 Stars (1.5 / 5)

 

What’s worse than a simply bad film? A film that utterly squanders its potential.

Director Takashi Miike’s filmography is far ranging — from the sadistic Ichi the Killer to vivid family comedy Ninja Kids!!!. With close to 100 credits to his name, a supernatural gangster film seems right up Miike’s street.…

Wait for The Drop: Hardy and Gandolfini shine in this Boston crime drama (RIP, James Gandolfini)

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

Crime dramas are a dime a dozen.

It’s a popular genre with plenty of easily recyclable tropes: the discount bins runneth over with Lock, Stock ripoffs and Danny Dyer Mockney crime capers. Then again, if you’re with Dennis Lehane, foremost authority on the seedy underbelly of Boston, and Michaël R.…

American Hustle might be my favorite film of 2013

4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

 

AKA The David O. Russell Reunion; Batman, Lois Lane, Rocket Raccoon, & Mystique: The Movie; or, Golden Globes For Everyone!

I don’t make a habit of using this space to gush over how much I love one film or another.

The Iceman is a cool but hollow affair, despite Shannon’s chilling performance

2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)

 

What’s with our obsession with people, usually men, who do very bad things and the current trend for trying to make us sympathize with them, serial killers especially?

Say what you want about the moral ambiguity of the age in which we live, but for or every Zodiac that makes a game of tracking down the monster, there’s a Badlands that romanticizes their exploits or a Seven Psychopaths making them figures of fun.…

Gangster Squad assembles all the old cliches to little effect

2 Stars (2 / 5)

 

Post-war L.A. The glitzy and glamorous City of Angels is under the thrall of brutal mob boss Mickey Cohen, with mob slayings on every corner and half the police force on the make.

Or so Gangster Squad, the third feature of director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less), would have us believe.…