×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Gangster Land’

1920s Chicago lives again in the Timothy Woodward Jr.'s bullet-riddled crime drama.

Director:
Timothy Woodward Jr.
With:
Sean Faris, Milo Gibson, Jason Patric, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Peter Facinelli, Mark Rolston, Al Sapienza, Tom Noga, Don Harvey, Jean Kauffman, Michael Pare, Louis Fasanaro, Drake Andrew, Ryan Kiser, Danny Hansen, Kevin Donovan.
Release Date:
Dec 1, 2017

1 hour, 28 minutes

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt7241654/combined

Timothy Woodward Jr. was born too late. Clearly the kind of enterprise that enabled this actor-turned-director to make no less than 13 features in the last five years for his own production company would’ve been ideally deployed in a “golden age” Poverty Row studio. And had they too existed back then, such reduced former A-listers as Tom Sizemore, Dolph Lundgren, Kris Kristofferson and Denise Richards probably still would have sooner or later found themselves toiling in Woodward Jr.’s joints, all low-budget actioners of one sort or another.

His latest is ambitious in the sense of being a period piece, something it pulls off with reasonable, resourceful aplomb even if the script (among other things) is too generic to result in anything more memorable than a passable time-filler. “Gangster Land” is not exactly good. But at least it’s farther along on the road to good than such prior Status Media efforts as “Gnome Alone” and the mysteriously all-caps “WEAPONIZED.” Given the gradually upticking arc of his opuses’ IMDb ratings to date, Woodward should finally score a 6 out of 10 sometime next year. He’s got the perspiration part down; surely inspiration can’t hold out much longer.

Jack (Sean Faris) is a nice Italian boy in 1922 Chicago, the son of immigrant shopkeepers. Trying to make it as a pugilist, his professional ring debut attracts attention from no less than Al Capone (Milo Gibson), at this stage just a subordinate working for Johnny Torrio (Al Sapienza). The latter’s Italian-American crime organization is engaged in bitter rivalry with Dion O’Banion’s (Mark Rolston) Irish-American one, particularly around bootlegging and booze smuggling in these early years of Prohibition.

Jack’s reluctant initial willingness to “make some real money” working on the wrong side of the law turns much more vengefully fervent when rival goons kill his father, who’s iced as a “competitor” for his strictly small-time winemaking. Capone also starts playing rougher — and taking over his boss’ role — once a bogus truce negotiated by O’Banion lands Torrio in prison. As turf wars tear up the town, Jack’s status rises, and he finds love with flapper chorus girl Lulu (Jamie Lynn-Sigler of “The Sopranos”). He just might achieve a happily-ever-after, albeit only if he can avoid the hail of tommy-gun bullets that steadily reduce the screen population here.

There’s plenty of violence in “Gangster Land,” though Woodward Jr. evinces no particular flair for staging it, so the rub-outs eventually grow monotonous. To a point, the film is carried along tolerably enough by brisk pacing and a decent overall look, even if the period flavor is often more approximate than precise, with good choice of locations doing most of the heavy lifting.

What ultimately keeps “Land” from rising above mediocrity — even to the level of guilty pleasure — is that Ian Patrick Williams’ screenplay is such a stock compilation of gangster tropes, the film has little chance of developing a personality all its own. Nor does the director’s handling of an uneven but mostly adequate cast encourage any distinctive interpretations, whether in the entirely fictive roles or those based on real-life figures. A bloody criminal-world shoot-em-up like this ought to at least offer the chance for some enjoyable scenery chewing. But nary an idiosyncratic moment surfaces, despite the employment opportunities provided for Jason Patric, Peter Facinelli, Michael Pare and others in supporting turns. With all the characters feeling like routine archetypes, there’s not much at stake emotionally, and a tragic epilogue proves little more than shrug-inducing.

Still, it remains impressive that anyone should attempt a full-dress “Untouchables”-type period bullet ballet on modest means. Woodward Jr. and company have moxie — they just need to take more stylistic and conceptual risks to kick their love of genre cinema onto a plane of homage that’s less blatantly imitative.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Gangster Land'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Nov. 30, 2017. Running time: 88 MIN.

Production: A Cinedigm release of a Cinedigm presentation of a Status Media & Entertainment production in association with Bondit and Kalispel Films. Producers: Timothy Woodward Jr., Lauren de Normandie, Terence Sims. James Cullen Bressack, Jarrett Furst. Executive producers: Matthew Helderman, Luke Taylor, Joe Listhaus, Patrick DePeters, Kirk Shaw, Drew Ryce, James Shavick.

Crew: Director: Timothy Woodward Jr. Screenplay: Ian Patrick Williams. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Pablo Diaz. Editor: Paul Covington. Music: Samuel Joseph Smythe.

With: Sean Faris, Milo Gibson, Jason Patric, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Peter Facinelli, Mark Rolston, Al Sapienza, Tom Noga, Don Harvey, Jean Kauffman, Michael Pare, Louis Fasanaro, Drake Andrew, Ryan Kiser, Danny Hansen, Kevin Donovan.

More Film

  • Zombieland Double Tap

    Why Emma Stone Was Haunted by Fear of Vomiting While Shooting 'Zombieland: Double Tap'

    SPOILER ALERT: The following story contains a slight spoiler for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” The zombie slayers are back! Ten years after Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin first killed dead people walking in “Zombieland,” they’ve reunited for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” “You take stock of your life a little bit,” Stone says of [...]

  • Hereditary

    The Best Horror Films to Stream Right Now

    Good horror movies aren’t always easy to scare up, but with Halloween on the horizon, Variety has compiled a list of some of the best horror films available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. NETFLIX Apostle Cult horror meets religious hypocrisy in this creepy gothic thriller, which follows prodigal son Thomas Richardson, who returns home [...]

  • Brett Gelman

    'Stranger Things' Star Brett Gelman Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse'

    Brett Gelman, best known for his scene-stealing roles in “Fleabag,” “Stranger Things” and “Love,” has joined Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse.” Jamie Bell and Jodie Turner-Smith are also on board. Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known as John Terrence Kelly, a former Navy SEAL who [...]

  • US director Francis Ford Coppola holds

    Francis Ford Coppola Honored With Prestigious Lumiere Prize by Thierry Fremaux, Bong Joon Ho

    Francis Ford Coppola took the stage to claim the Lumière Festival’s lifetime achievement honor, the Lumière Prize, in a stirring celebration that marked the festival’s 10th edition on Friday night in Lyon, France. The four-time Academy Award winner accepted the prize after a series of video tributes, musical performances and testimonials from family, friends and [...]

  • 'Human Capital' Sells to Vertical Entertainment,

    Liev Schreiber, Maya Hawke's 'Human Capital' Sells Rights to DirecTV, Vertical Entertainment (EXCLUSIVE)

    Vertical Entertainment and DirecTV have jointly acquired the North American distribution rights to “Human Capital,” an official selection of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival from director Marc Meyers. The film stars Oscar winner Marisa Tomei, Liev Schreiber, Peter Sarsgaard, and Maya Hawke. The ensemble drama follows numerous interconnected stories surrounding a hit and run, [...]

  • Robert Zemeckis

    Robert Zemeckis in Talks to Direct Live-Action 'Pinocchio' for Disney (EXCLUSIVE)

    Robert Zemeckis is in early talks to direct Disney’s live-action “Pinocchio.” Andrew Miano and Chris Weitz will produce through their company Depth of Field with Weitz penning the script. “Paddington” director Paul King had originally been tapped to direct but had to leave the project for unknown reasons at the beginning of the year. David [...]

  • Taron Egerton Elton John Rocketman Live

    Elton John and Taron Egerton Duet at 'Rocketman' Awards Season Event at the Greek Theatre

    “Rocketman” has officially launched into awards season. Paramount hosted a screening of the film with a live-performance of the score by the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and a headlining performance by Elton John and the film’s star Taron Egerton. John and Egerton — who is in contention for best actor for his portrayal of the singer [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content