Opening this weekend is the noir action film Gangster Squad. From Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer and Castle writer Will Beall, the film is an adaptation of Paul Lieberman’s book also titled Gangster Squad. Official synopsis:
Los Angeles, 1949. Ruthless, Brooklyn-born mob king Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) runs the show in this town, reaping the ill-gotten gains from the drugs, the guns, the prostitutes and—if he has his way—every wire bet placed west of Chicago. And he does it all with the protection of not only his own paid goons, but also the police and the politicians who are under his control. It’s enough to intimidate even the bravest, street-hardened cop… except, perhaps, for the small, secret crew of LAPD outsiders led by Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) and Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), who come together to try to tear Cohen’s world apart.
Along with Penn, Brolin and Gosling, the film also stars Emma Stone, Nick Nolte, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick, and Michael Pena among others.
Now Gangster Squad was originally supposed to come out in 2012, but was pushed back after the movie theater shooting at The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado. There was a scene in the film where men come through a movie screen and shoot people in attendance and they felt it just could not be seen at that time. And unfortunately holding the film back hurt the film in my eyes.
With it sitting around, they seemed to re-cut it or put some new edit on it, but unfortunately the movie lost its flow to me. There were scenes that seemed choppy or rushed and some that just felt out of place or not put together right. There were a lot of continuity errors especially some blatant ones like a main character already having blood on his jacket before he touches someone on the street who is shot. The story of the film is post World War II Hollywood yet the style of some of the filmmaking was clearly of today. They should have stuck to the feel of old school gangster films and cut some of the slow motion scenes. Although I will give it credit for having a pretty decent car chase scene in those old cars.
There are things I did like about the movie. I thought Josh Brolin was very good and definitely owned the movie. He was clearly in charge of the film even with a well known cast. Opposite Ryan Gosling (who is one of my favorite actors), Brolin was always the lead and looked good doing. Gosling, in a more supporting role, wasn’t bad, but his character didn’t need him to do too much. He still wins you over with a smile and gets a lady because well, he’s Ryan Gosling. Emma Stone looked pretty, but I don’t think she’s fully ready to do a period piece like this just yet. Patrick, Pena, Mackie and Ribisi were all solid in supporting roles too. I will admit though, I didn’t love Penn’s interpretation of Cohen. It seemed way over the top, almost like a spoof of gangster movies to me. Stories of Cohen are all over the place as far as his personality and corruption, but something just didn’t sit right for me.
There will be people complaining about the violence in the film. I’ve already seen some reviews and tweets about all the guns and murders in it. Yes there have been a lot of needless violence currently, but this is a movie. Not only is it a movie, it’s based on a true story about a time where people were killed in the streets. If you’re some politically correct/no common sense person who can’t see violent images, stay home. If you’re a normal person, the violence isn’t too over the top and isn’t close to anything Quentin Tarantino has done.
With the Academy Award nominations announced on Thursday people will probably run out and watch some of those movies now that others are telling them they are good. I do expect Gangster Squad to do pretty well at the box office opening in first or second place depending on how well Zero Dark Thirty does in its wider release. Maybe the surprise will be A Haunted House, but that’s already getting negative reactions from early screenings. Rethinking this, I do think it’ll take the top place at the box office. There’s too many big names in it for people not to go see it. And I think there might be some leftover buzz from the delay after the Aurora shootings that might pull some people in to see it. It’s not bad for this time of year, but I don’t expect you to remember it later on as the movie going year progresses.