Gangster Land Blu-ray Review

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Al Capone and Machine Gun Jack McGurn Shoot Up The Irish Mob

The Chicago mob wars in the Prohibition era have provided the setting for many gangster yarns, from The Untouchables to the original Scarface. The period had some of history’s most infamous gangsters, including Al Capone. Timothy Woodward Jr.’s Gangster Land takes a glossier approach to its fairly standard tale of gangsters in the Roaring Twenties, casting pretty boy Sean Faris as Machine Gun Jack McGurn. One of Capone’s key underlings, McGurn is the centerpiece of Gangster Land’s drama and period violence.

Opening up with a young Jack McGurn (Sean Faris) as an up-and-coming boxer in the early 1920s, the Italian boxer poses as an Irishman for his boxing career. He is soon made an offer to make some real money and work for the Sicilian Mob. They are led by Johnny Torrio (Al Sapienza) and Al Capone (Milo Gibson, one of Mel Gibson’s sons), locked in a brutal war with the Irish North Side gangsters headed by Dion O’Banion (character actor Mark Rolston). Jack McGurn starts out as a wild-eyed innocent, initially passing up offers of booze and women from Capone. Unsure about joining the gang, Jack’s decision will be made for him when the Irish murder his step-father in cold blood.

Gangster Land’s narrative throws you into the deep end of the well-documented Chicago gang wars of the 1920s, mostly focusing on its most violent moments such as the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. Probably its most interesting material is the ethnic conflict found at the heart of the mob war in Chicago, though it’s treated in the most superficial manner possible. The thread-bare storytelling isn’t the most nuanced or elaborate, glossing over key facts and paying only the faintest attention to historical accuracy.

It’s a derivative movie about the Prohibition era with competent acting and an excellent ensemble cast

Some drama is thrown in for window dressing to spice up the gangster action such as Jack’s relationship with a dancer, Lulu (Jamie-Lynn Sigler, The Sopranos). Which doesn’t leave a lot of room in the storytelling for characterization beyond the general stereotypes unflinchingly common to these gangster movies. But make no mistake, this is a movie mostly concerned about detailing Jack McGurn’s violent mob involvement and criminal rise on the streets of Chicago.

There’s nothing wrong with Gangster Land per se. It’s a derivative movie about the Prohibition era with competent acting and an excellent ensemble cast. Jason Patric and Peter Facinelli are also in the cast, providing familiar faces. It’s like an MTV take on gangsters, casting actors too handsome for each role with a mindless focus on violent mayhem and action. Lead Sean Faris is a serviceable actor but he’s not the right pick for the gritty Machine Gun Jack McGurn. An older actor should have taken the part, one that could have commanded more respect in the role.

Nothing in Gangster Land is particularly original but director Timothy Woodward Jr.’s film passes as a competently made tale of Prohibition gangsters doing what they do best.

Video

Gangster Land receives a decent hi-def presentation on Blu-ray from independent distributor Cinedigm. Shot with Arri Alexa digital cameras, the 1080P video offers moderately impressive picture quality tempered by a few small things.

Some banding and chroma noise appear in the ordinary AVC encode for what is mostly clean, tight cinematography. The sharp picture doesn’t contain the overwhelming detail or ultra-deep black levels seen in the best-looking films made with the Arri Alexa.

The 88-minute main feature is shown at its intended theatrical 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Included on a BD-25, there are few overt flaws in the video or its digital transfer. This is fine picture quality, suitable for a period flick. Gangster Land didn’t have a huge budget but its production values are on the high end for an indie movie.

Audio

The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack has a largely derivative score that pays homage to Morricone’s work in The Untouchables and other assorted gangster film scores. Recording quality and fidelity are crisp with fine dynamics.

The surround mix is more focused towards the front soundstage than most action-driven gangster flicks, lacking overwhelming amounts of immersion. Some LFE makes an impact when necessary.

Optional English SDH subs play in a white font, always residing within the widescreen scope framing of the movie.

Extras

There are no included special features. A slipcover is available.

Hickok Trailer (02:33 in HD) – This plays before the main menu.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 12 Gangster Land screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 10,000+ already in our library), exclusive UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.

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