It’s funny, reading the American critical response to Andrew Dominik’s adaptation of Cogan’s Trade. Too explicit, the consensus goes, is the Jesse James-helmer’s critique of capitalism. One suspects that it falls upon dear ears anyway. Although it is no mere subtext – the camera often as interested in a TV showing Bush or Obama as the film’s own characters, speeches from the same becoming voice-over both in and out the diegesis – it precisely needs to be this way to go into worthwhile depth (rather than simply: “Capitalism is bad”).
Indeed, the gangster story at hand provides the perfect allegory. In Hollywood the genre has always been the inversion of the American dream, reinforced bluntly when we open with candidate Obama bleating about the very same thing as we watch a scruffy criminal (no Ocean’s Eleven style here) wander in his desperate aspiration like cattle to inevitable slaughter. Just as in Scorsese’s Casino, there’s the glamour and the crushing (violent) reality – gangsterdom and capitalism separated only by which is official. I’ll stop there for fear of ruining the experience of Dominik’s thorough piece, but even if it weren’t in my case preaching to the choir it is brutally stylish, unified, intelligent and daring. Art as opposed to counter-propaganda. A must-see.