DemosNews: Cranky Re: Gangster
Cranky Re: Gangster
By: HermioneSG

So, they’re good actors. But what scope do their skills have in this movie? Denzel Washington basically toggles between two modes— strategic, poker faced, rather classy hard hitter who keeps his own council, and the broad smile fellow who breaks through in ‘he’s my man’ situations or when showing off before his mom or the pretty girl. Russell Crowe betrays even less interior depth. From his few remarks as he walks through the park with his wife and son, we’re to believe he cares about the boy, although we see zero warmth dad to kid or kid to dad. Nor does much emotion of any sort flicker through his face or bearing at other points in the film, even at the death of his partner, during the quick sexual encounters with a passing stewardess or his lawyer, or at the abandonment of his childhood gangster friend to some vague predicament apparently resolvable only by suicide. His personality barely enlarges upon the moniker ‘honest cop’. At film’s end, his odd switch from patrolman who rids society of scourges, to defender of the (rightly or wrongly) accused leaves us puzzled. Do we assume that the flutter of horse trading between Washington and Crowe, as they cleanse the field of corrupt police and military as well as street criminals, builds a kinship between these two unforgiving, strategic men that allows him to see all the players as human? Or???

Both protagonists’ failings are declared heavy handedly and loudly to the audience by their significant others—Washington’s mom blasting his bad behavior and the corruption of his clan, Crowe’s wife blurting out in public the emptiness and inconsistency of his life (as if these traits were not obvious to us anyway.) Critical clues like hiding the dope in coffins or getaway money under a snarling dog come as pathetically obvious, often encountered before. Great gangster sagas like The Godfather or The Sopranos weave myriad nuanced layers, even in short episodes. The viewer comes to love those characters, even the stinkers, for their yearning, foibles, comically human moments, vulnerabilities, moxy, feeling. This movie operates only in clichés.

So what keeps us watching? Basically, the voyeur element— suave black people dancing in the club, nearly nude black girls cutting heroin with filler, corrupt Vietnam G.I. with his three bare breasted masseuses, swaying poppy fields, the shoot’em ups. We really don’t care a whit about the characters, nor know anything about their inner life or background that would make them sympathetic or understandable. Music’s good though.

© 2021 HermioneSG of DemosNews

December 7, 2007 at 2:26pm
DemosRating: 4
Hits: 1501

Genre: Arts (Reviews)
Type: Critical
Tags: review, american, gangster, movie

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