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Non-Review Review: Tower Heist

Hollywood has always had a strange way of reacting to current trends and realities as they exist outside the multiplex. Films tend to take a while to react to shifting cultural phenomena. That said, changes in response to particular incidents can be relatively swift. Gangster Squad was famously re-shot following the Aurora shootings and released less than a year later. Although still in the early stages of its production, Zero Dark Thirty was heavily re-worked after Osama Bin Ladin had been shot and killed. However, it’s the broader changes that Hollywood takes longer to acknowledge.

The Dark Knight was praised by The Washington Times as “the first great post-Sept. 11 film”, but this was in 2008 – almost seven years after the attacks. The 9/11 zeitgeist still lingers over American film and television. However, it’s telling that – only recently – have we seen reactions to the financial crisis creep into contemporary blockbuster cinema, as the studios try to acknowledge the shifting economic reality.

Tower Heist is very clearly an attempt to capitalise on some of the anger and the hurt generated by the failure of banks and official bodies to protect the average citizen from the financial collapse. It’s confused, muddled and a little disjointed, even if the intentions seem noble. It still feels a little disappointing that it took almost half a decade to produce this rather bland reaction.

A crash course in economics...

A crash course in economics…

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Non-Review Review: Gangster Squad

To suggest that Gangster Squad favours style over substance feels like an understatement. Although the prologue claims that Gangster Squad was “inspired” by the true story of Mickey Cohen, it seems to favour mythic figures and sweeping action over real characters and nuanced drama. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. For most of its runtime, Gangster Squad feels like a trashy and update of a forties or fifties B-movie, cheap and nasty far executed with enough speed and charm to entertain. Occasionally the movie seems to falter – it clumsily attempts to shoehorn in some social commentary into this bright and colourful vigilante tale – but director Ruben Fleischer works well to keep things balanced. The wheels come off a bit towards the end, as Fleischer demonstrates he handles atmosphere better than action, but for most of its runtime Gangster Squad is a diverting piece of cheesy nostalgia.

This new plan is working gangbusters!

This new plan is working gangbusters!

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