Chicago in the 1920s. Booze may be illegal but that’s not keeping people from drinking and gangsters from making a killing. When an amateur boxer named Jack McGurn (Sean Faris) joins the mob, he befriend an up-and-coming criminal named Al Capone (Milo Gibson). While Capone rises through the ranks, McGurn is always by his side, usually firing a tommy gun. When Capone finally becomes the boss of Chicago, McGurn becomes his second-in-command and a leading strategist in the war against Capone’s rival, George “Bugs” Moran (Peter Facinelli).
If you’re looking for a historically accurate film about 1920s Chicago, look elsewhere. Today, “Machine Gun” McGurn is best known for being the mastermind behind the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (which, of course, is recreated in Gangster Land) but it’s doubtful that he was ever Capone’s second-in-command. Famed Capone associates like Frank Nitti, Gus Alex, and Murray Humphreys are nowhere to be found in Gangster Land, nor is Eliot Ness. Instead Jason Patric plays the righteous and fictional Detective Reed.
What the film lacks in historical accuracy, it makes up for in gangster action. There’s enough tommy gun action, car chases, and showgirls to keep most gangster film aficionados happy. All of the usual Capone stuff is recreated: Johnny Torrio is assassinated, Dion O’Bannon is killed in his flower shop, and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre scandalizes the nation. Though the film never displays anything more than a Wikipedia-level understanding of the prohibition era and there’s not a single gangster cliché that isn’t used, Gangster Land is briskly paced and makes good use of its low-budget. Sean Faris is stiff as McGurn but Milo Gibson (son of Mel) is better than you might expect as Al Capone and the underrated Jason Patric makes the most of his limited screen time. Fans of The Sopranos may want to watch for the chance to see Meadow herself, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, as McGurn’s showgirl wife.