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Review: ‘Gangster Land’ goes soft on crime (and authenticity)

Sean Faris in the movie "Gangster Land."
(Tania Espinosa / Cinedigm)

The ideal audience for “Gangster Land” would be someone who’s never seen “The Untouchables” or “Boardwalk Empire” … or, heck, even “Guys and Dolls” or “Bugsy Malone.” Though it’s based (very loosely) on the true story of Al Capone and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, this period crime picture is like a remedial version of an underworld action-adventure.

Director Timothy Woodward Jr. (helming his 13th movie, all released in the past four years) actually has a decent cast. Milo Gibson — son of Mel — plays Capone, whose story is mostly told through the eyes of boxer-turned-button-man “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn (Sean Faris).

“The Sopranos” starlet Jamie-Lynn Sigler is McGurn’s wife, Louise Rolfe, while Peter Facinelli, Michael Paré and Jason Patric fill smaller roles. These people all look snazzy in their ’20s regalia.

But while Woodward does what he can with a modest budget to make scenes feel full, the sets still mostly look like sets, and the tough-guy posturing comes across like the work of people who’ve watched “Goodfellas” too many times. It doesn’t help that screenwriter Ian Patrick Williams sticks the actors with lines like, “I’ll dance on your grave, you Irish potato-eater!”

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Nothing about “Gangster Land” smacks of any effort for authenticity. The movie isn’t trying to understand Chicago in the Capone era. It just uses those names and stories as a backdrop for a lot of shooting, swearing and bad accents.

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‘Gangster Land’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

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Playing: Regency Plant 16, Van Nuys

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