Tuesday, January 15, 2013

REVIEW: Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad

Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling


January 11, 2013

Ruben Fleischer

Warner Bros. Pictures

1 hour 53 minutes



'Gangster Squad' turned out to be a lot more different than I expected it to be. What I personally expected from this film was a brutal, serious, and fun movie with some solid performances from the cast. Instead what I got was a violent, corny, and fun movie with some good performances and one over the top performance. Not to say that this movie wasn't enjoyable, because it was. I was just expecting a better film than what was given. I admired that the film embraced its corniness, like how 'Premium Rush' did back in August. Unfortunately Sean Penn goes a little over the top in his performance as Mickey Cohen, there are more slow-motion shots than needed, and the ending was pretty schmaltzy and too happy for a film that's advertised as being "based on a true story." Still though, the performances are good, the action scenes were good, and the film overall embraced the fact that it's not trying to be such a serious crime film. 'Gangster Squad' has its flaws, but it is a fun movie if you understand what type of movie you're getting in to.

SYNOPSIS: (Courtesy of iTunes Movie Trailers)
Los Angeles, 1949. Ruthless, Brooklyn-born mob king Mickey Cohen 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 and Jerry Wooters, who come together to try to tear Cohen's world apart.

Of all of the performances in the film that disappointed me, the biggest disappointment for me was Sean Penn's portrayal of Mickey Cohen. Sean Penn is a fantastic actor, always losing himself in every role he plays. With his role as Mickey Cohen, he does lose himself, but a bit too much. Penn's performance was just so over the top that it almost made Cohen a laughable character. Some of the more dramatic elements of the film were well acted by Penn, but many of the cheesier moments had Penn going AWOL from his usual dramatic stuff and had him acting like a goofball. The best performance in the film was actually Ryan Gosling, but that was because he was kind of playing the same character he played in 'Crazy Stupid Love,' only this time in a late 40s setting as a cop-turned-gangster. The rest of the film's performances were rather stale and generic.

Josh Brolin, Emma Stone, and Robert Patrick were among the group of acclaimed actors who tried their best with what they were given, but overall gave the typical hero, damsel, and comedic badass performances that didn't add a lot to the film as a whole. They were just forgettable and plain performances with no extra ingredients added. Sure Robert Patrick had his moments, and Emma Stone was really good in the film, but overall all of the performances, other than Penn and Gosling, didn't add or take away a lot and just left me thinking that they were just ok.  Even Giovanni Ribisi and Anthony Mackie couldn't add their own flare to their roles.  Honestly I don't blame the actors for giving these standard performances, because they couldn't help it. The real problem with the film is the script and how poorly executed certain things were.

The main problem about the script for 'Gangster Squad,' adapted from the book written by Paul Lieberman by Will Beal, is that it's all over the place. The film had no idea what it wanted to be in terms of tone. At moments it would embrace its stupidity and act really cheesy. Other times there were some intense action that featured little to no blood, other than in a couple of the murders that Mickey's men execute. Sure there were some humorous moments here and there, but the script sadly doesn't do anything new to the gangster genre of film and just tries to pay tribute to spoof films in a way and adds stylistic slow motion sequences to make it look sleek and cool. Ruben Fleischer of 'Zombieland' fame does his best with what he's given to make the movie look cool and feel cool, but this script had to have been so much better and have a key tone in order for the film to have worked as a whole.

'Gangster Squad' had the potential to be so fun and so awesome. Unfortunately the final product is just so over the top and all over the place that it's just a decent to solid enough film. Sure it was a fun time in the theater, but honestly I don't think I would watch it again willingly. This film was pushed back from September to January due to the Aurora shooting back in July causing a key scene in the film to be reshot and replaced. I'm curious to see that scene, along with the original cut of the film, because I believe that the original cut was much different from the cut that's in theaters now. There wasn't a lot of gratuitous violence, and it wasn't as brutal as it should have been. But if you want to have fun in a theater for two hours, then why not check out this film. 'Gangster Squad' is a fun movie, but the flaws are somewhat significant and take away from what could have been a great movie. Instead, this is just a good and forgettable film, plain and simple.


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