Film review: Gangster Land (2017), directed by Timothy Woodward Jr
With a stellar rating of 4.4 on IMDb, Gangster Land ended up on my Netflix list because it mentioned Prohibition Era Chicago. After Boardwalk Empire I have a soft spot for Al Capone, so this was an easy sell, but wow, there have been better films. Strange, then, that I decided to re-watch it again a year later, huh? I thought “now that I’m more clued up about Al Capone, I’ll give it another go” and … I could appreciate it a bit more, but that’s still a stretch.
“If Syfy made a gangster film” is how I explained it to Mr T. You look at some of the actors and think they deserved better than this.
It’s about a young Italian boxer who pretends to be Irish, because reasons, and calls himself Jack McGurn (Sean Faris). He goes to work for Al Capone (Milo Gibson) and falls for a woman called Lulu (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), who wants to be a dancer at a club. There are a bunch of shootings. Capone eventually gets put away for tax evasion. Aaaand that’s about it? For the most part I was wondering what the actual plot was supposed to be.
The only indication of something like a decade going by is … nothing? The film opens in 1922. I only know a decade goes by because I’m familiar with the events portrayed from having watched Boardwalk Empire, gangster documentaries, and reading those books about Al Capone. Even on a re-watch, when I looked out for clues about the passage of time, there weren’t any.
I didn’t really care for, or even got to know, any of the characters. The main way I could follow what was going on is because I knew who the main players were from watching Boardwalk Empire: Johnny Torrio (Al Sapienza), Dion O’Banion (Mark Rolston), and “Bugs” Moran (Peter Facinelli). If I hadn’t, I might have been completely lost as to who everyone was.
First time I thought the film wasn’t very historically accurate, and didn’t realise that the main character in this, Jack McGurn, was a real person. Second time I went “hey, wait a minute, Machine Gun Jack McGurn? That rings a bell”, and strangely enough it turns out this film is actually pretty historically accurate. Surprise! If you look at it as a Jack McGurn biopic instead of a gangster film about some boxer dude, it actually becomes a better film. Not a good film, mind, but a better one.
The best part were all the period costumes and the accompanying hats, even though I kept wondering why everyone was still wearing a hat indoors when having meetings. That’s the wrong etiquette. Ladies keep their hats on, men take them off. I digress, as usual.
Gangster Land is still not great, but it’s better than Gangster Squad for sure, and it annoyed me a lot less than The Untouchables, but I’m grudgingly giving it a hats off (or hats on in this case, see above) for historical accuracy. And for the golf peg thing being, ahh, amusing.
2 out of 5 fedoras.