Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Gangster Squad Is Style Over Substance

Plus, Zero Dark Thirty is Certified Fresh, and A Haunted House wasn't screened -- guess the Tomatometer!

by | January 10, 2013 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got tough cops (Gangster Squad, starring Sean Penn and Ryan Gosling), a tenacious CIA agent (Zero Dark Thirty, starring Jessica Chastain and Joel Edgerton), and a bedeviled couple (A Haunted House, starring Marlon Wayans and Essence Atkins). What do the critics have to say?

Gangster Squad


Gangster Squad has a lot of promise: it’s a true crime tale with a star-studded cast bathed in the dark shadows of film noir. Unfortunately, critics say the film is largely a case of style over substance, and beneath its stylish veneer lies a shopworn script and an excessive amount of violence. It’s the late 1940s, and Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) runs the Los Angeles underworld with help from a cadre of crooked cops. That is, until straight-arrow lawmen John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) and Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) assemble a clandestine crew of LAPD officers to take Cohen down. The pundits say Gangster Squad looks terrific, and its actors inhabit their roles well, but its script apes older gangland classics without bringing much new to the table. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Gosling’s best-reviewed films, as well as our video interviews with the cast.)

Zero Dark Thirty


The story of the CIA’s hunt for Osama bin Laden was so dramatic — and so fraught with political import — that it required a great filmmaker to bring it to the screen. Critics say Kathryn Bigelow, who won a Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker, is up to the task, and Zero Dark Thirty is a pulse-quickening thriller that presents the nuts and bolts of the operation with complexity and smarts. Jessica Chastain stars as Maya, a young CIA operative who relentlessly pursues leads into the whereabouts of the terrorist mastermind, which eventually result in a raid on bin Laden’s secret compound in Pakistan. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Zero Dark Thirty is an urgent piece of moviemaking, one that captures not only the milieu of driven professionals but also the national mood after the traumatic effects of 9/11.(Check out our interviews with stars Chastain and Jason Clarke.)

A Haunted House


January is often a dumping ground for mediocre movies, and the lack of pre-release screenings for A Haunted House indicates that it’s probably pretty bad. A Haunted House is a cameo-laden parody of found footage horror films like Paranormal Activity. Once again, it’s time to guess the Tomatometer! (And take a look through our gallery of memorable 3D horror movies.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • In Another Country, a dramedy starring Isabelle Huppert as three different women who visit a beachfront bed-and-breakfast, is at 80 percent.
  • Quartet, starring Maggie Smith and Tom Courtenay in a dramedy about the arrival of a famous opera star at a residence for retired musicians, is at 78 percent.
  • Uprising, a documentary about the pro-democracy protests in Egypt during the Arab Spring, is at 71 percent.
  • Fairhaven, a drama about a former high school football star who returns to his hometown, is at 56 percent.
  • Clandestine Childhood, a coming-of-age drama about the son of revolutionaries working to overthrow the Argentinian government in the late 1970s, is at 50 percent.
  • High Tech, Low Life, a doc about two bloggers that cover underreported news in contemporary China, is at 50 percent.
  • Storage 24, a sci fi/horror hybrid about a group of friends stuck in a storage facility overrun by extraterrestrial critters, is at 44 percent.
  • Struck by Lightning, starring Chris Colfer in a comedy about a recently deceased high school senior looking back on his recent misadventures, is at 32 percent.
  • Let My People Go!, a French farce about a gay man who moves in with his neurotic family after a series of mishaps, is at 29 percent.
  • My Best Enemy, a dramedy about a man who attempts to commandeer priceless artworks in Nazi-occupied Austria, is at 25 percent.
  • The Baytown Outlaws, starring Billy Bob Thornton and Eva Longoria in a comedy about a woman attempting to rescue her son from her violent ex-husband, is at 13 percent.
  • Horrid Henry: The Movie, a kiddie flick about a mischievous rascal whose failure to submit his homework leads to a series of wacky events, is at 10 percent.

Finally, props to George Patchell for coming the closest to guessing Texas Chainsaw 3D‘s 21 percent Tomatometer.>

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