The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
The US director's biopic of an infamous gangster at war with the police verges on video-game caricature
Gangster Squad has been described as "an experiment in next-wave noir."
Presumably because unlike previous films noirs, which are notable for their stylish stories and classy camerawork, this film is a full frontal assault on the senses.
Like every recent Hollywood action film, it just ups the decibels and presents a series of tommy-gun battles that confound sense or reason.
Yet apparently director Ruben Fletcher says he's cut down the gun action after the recent mass shoot-out in a cinema showing The Dark Knight Rises.
Ostensibly it's a biopic of the infamous LA gangster Mickey Cohen, portrayed by Sean Penn as though he were Pacino playing Scarface on supercharged coke.
Which is pretty ridiculous, since the real-life Cohen was rather more prosaic. He was a gangster and gambler who sought celebrity.
Such is Cohen's ability to corrupt officials, it is decided to hire a squad to appropriate the means to be "badder than the baddies."
That's what the US has always done when faced with real or imagined foes - exaggerate the danger and employ vigilantes unrestricted by the law.
Thus the squad call in former WWII soldier-cum-copper John O'Mara (Josh Brolin), a genuine hero who's adamant that his city isn't going to fall into criminal barbarism.
Brolin does manage to bridge the gap between character and caricature, though he's faced with a script that creates a wild bunch resembling the Dirty Dozen.
Film noir requires two women representing "good" and "evil" and the former is personified in his worried wife Connie (Mirelle Enos) who, despite opposition, helps him pick out his squad, including a former comic sharpshooter.
The other is wannabe actress-cum-moll Grace (Emma Stone) who's "owned" by Cohen but is attracted to O'Mara's mate Sergeant Jerry Woolers (Ryan Gosling).
The interplay between them and their foes promises much, including a script that satirises the US notion of that nation's supposed "manifest destiny."
As Cohen states, "The greaser took it from the Indians and we're going to take it from them" and then, like Cody Jarrett in White Heat, he attempts to be top of the world.
But no sooner is the scene set up for some duelling dialogue but the film explodes into action with tommy-gun battles more akin to video games.
Entertaining but hardly The Untouchables or Chinatown, never mind The Naked City.