The month of January is not a good time to go the movies. Studios notoriously release into theaters films that are essentially guaranteed flops to clear their inventory for concentration on award season pushes and the upcoming blockbuster summer season. That is not to say all films historically released in the month of January are duds, there are certainly exceptions. This Friday brings the release of Gangster Squad; the latest in Hollywood’s fascination with the gangster. While Gangster Squad will more than likely top the box office this weekend, will it actually be any good or will it just be added to other films that join the January flop lost?
On paper Gangster Squad looks to have everything in place, a popular genre that can tempt both male and female audiences of all ages. There has never been a shortage of films that feature the gangster character, thus reinforcing the smooth talking; Tommy gun carrying trope is here to stay. Gangster Squad features an all star cast that is sure to draw attention; Sean Penn leads with Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Josh Brolin, and Nick Nolte supporting.
Gangster Squad is set in 1940s- 50’s Los Angeles and centers around a group of Los Angeles Detectives attempting to keep Los Angeles free of gangsters. Josh Brolin is Sgt. John O’Mara, the head of the “squad” that is tasked with bringing down gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). Legality is thrown away when it comes to taking down the kingpin Cohen himself and the cops become somewhat of gangsters themselves. Fan favorites Ryan Gosling (Sgt. Jerry Wooters) and Emma Stone (Grave Farraday) add to the dazzling swank world of 1940s Los Angeles, but whether they add any depth to the material beyond the their cheesy dialogue in the trailer remains to be seen. If anything Gangster Squad is a basic plot that should be heavy on the violence.
Having been pushed back from a September 7, 2012 release, Gangster Squad has seen its fair share of troubles to land it in on the release date it had. One trailer for the film appeared before The Dark Knight Rises featuring a scene in which theatergoers are besieged by gunmen coming through the screen. When the tragedy in Aurora occurred, the trailer was quickly pulled and the scene re-shot, thus delaying the release of the film. Also in recent weeks star Josh Brolin has been arrested for public intoxication, which does not bode well for producers pushing the film. Whether anyone agrees or not and actor’s behavior offset can often taint audience’s perceptions of the films they are in... just ask Mel Gibson or Kristen Stewart who have faced backlashes for their off-screen antics. Then there is the film itself, which is not exactly winning over critical praise.
One such scathing review of the film comes from hollywoodandfine.com’s Marshall Fine who writes that Gangster Squad is essentially a copycat of other famous gangster movies and only turns out to be a “slight piece of entertainment, which is what the bloody, only occasionally exciting Gangster Squad turns out to be…it's always been the same: the megalomaniacal crime boss with money to burn to corrupt the power structure of his city, battling a small group of cops who refuse to be bought.”
Although it may follow a basic plot formula, it is a formula that works. Look for Gangster Squad to more than likely top the box office, not with huge numbers, but enough to knock Leather face down on to his own Chainsaw; or to break the January string of so-so films. Gangster Squad opens this Friday, January 11, 2013 at Regal and AMC theaters.