ActionFest Double Team Review: ‘A Gang Story’ is a Fresh Take on Familiar Material

By  · Published on April 21st, 2012

In an attempt to shake things up a bit and pay a bit of homage to the amazing fight sequences we saw at ActionFest, Brian and I will go back and forth on these reviews in a kind of point for point debate style as opposed to traditional review format. We hope you enjoy it.

Brian Salisbury is only part man, the rest is composed of dense, angry layers of English muffin pizzas and Sno-Caps. Forged in the fire of Mt. Dubious Taste, Salisbury (alias Steak Plissken) now wages an unceasing war against the forces of good and pretentious. Entering the squared circle of ActionFest, he is determined to eye-gorge himself on action flicks and wreck as much havoc upon his Viking-bearded cohort Luke “Danger” Mullen as he routinely does upon his own digestive system. Will these two titans of genre consumption merely destroy each other in Asheville, or will their collective might leave the city a smoldering crater with only Zaxby’s cups and Cheerwine bottles to denote its former existence?

First up is A Gang Story, based on the true story of a gang that pulled several heists throughout France during the 70s. It focuses an aging gangster named Momon who ran the heists with a small crew, spent some time in jail for it and is now living comfortably on the earnings. When one of his former partners is caught and being sent back to jail, Momon is faced with conflicting loyalties to his partner and to his family. Old secrets are unearthed as Momon tries to decide what’s most important to him.

Brian: A Gang Story is one of those sweeping biographical gangster movies, and for that reason I think you can draw comparisons to The Godfather, but I think that’s probably where that comparison ends. But I do like the fact that it covered this interesting expanse of time from when these guys were young and coming up to where they end up as adults. I like that element of it.

Luke: The thought that I had while watching it was more Scorsese. But The Godfather comparison works, especially comparing Momon’s character to Don Corleone, because they’ve both gotten older and they’re not as involved with the life and they just want to spend time with their family. There’s even a big party at the beginning, it’s for a christening instead of a wedding, but it’s obviously very similar to the opening of The Godfather.

Brian: In both cases the party is interrupted a bit because someone needs a favor. And there’s a christening in The Godfather as well.

Luke: Right, and you can’t even fault them for stealing it because A Gang Story is based on a true story. What I really like about this film is the way it’s shot. It was shot by a guy named Denis Rouden who’d worked with Olivier Marchal on his previous films like MR 73 and 36 Quai des Orfevres and he also shot the Largo Winch films which look great as well. This is a guy who should be shooting Hollywood movies. The action sequences are so well constructed, there are flat out beautiful frames throughout the film with deep, rich colors. The film just looks like a million bucks and it makes it so much fun to watch. I really like how they integrated all of the 70s flashback sequences into the main storyline so the characters’ backgrounds are gradually revealed as the main storyline is also unfolding. And the 70s stuff has it’s own look, a little desaturated and slightly blown out but it just looks cool.

Brian: Oh it’s funky fresh. And the thing is, the one complaint I have about the movie. We just mentioned that it’s based on a true story so it’s hard to fault the movie for this, but it’s very basic. It’s got a good setup and it’s very well made, but ultimately the story is just average.

Luke: Yeah, it’s a movie that’s hard to get really excited about. It’s not mind-blowing or anything. It’s a very good film, I’m glad I watched it. I would probably watch it again and I would even buy it just because I love the cinematography so much but I think for most people this is going to be a watch it once type of film.

Brian: Well you’re also desperately in love with the French. Ultimately, it’s a movie that’s worth seeing. It’s well done, it’s got great performances. I thought the music was really good, but it does lack a little bit in the plot.

Luke: Well, since we pretty much agreed on this one I guess we’ll have to fight to the death!

Brian: Or go best 2 out of 3 on Hungry Hungry Hippos?

Luke: YOU’RE ON!

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