Welcome to my first review of 2013! As I said in my post on January 2, I was pretty excited for Gangster Squad. I was left mostly satisfied. For the first official post of the new year, I’m taking it pretty easy.
1. Ryan Gosling in Gangster Squad (2013) with Ryan Gosling
At one point, Gangster Squad was one of the hottest scripts in town. It attracted director Ruben Fleischer, coming off the success of Zombieland, and a cast with names like Sean Penn, Emma Stone, Josh Brolin, Anthony Mackie and (of course) Ryan Gosling. Then, because the original cut included a climactic shootout in a movie theater, the release was delayed this summer in the wake of the Aurora shooting. Now it’s six months later, and Gangster Squad is finally released, but it’s getting beat at the box office by awful-looking spoof movies like A Haunted House.
The final cut feels a little disjointed, but somehow I still enjoyed the movie. If you’re crazy enough to walk into this movie thinking it will win awards, let me stop you now. It’s a 2-hour long, strange-feeling video game of a movie. But it kind of works. The movie has Fleischer written all over it, with slo-mo and zoom flourishes featured in many of the kinetic action sequences (reminiscent of his last feature, 30 Minutes or Less). It doesn’t always work, but I give it to Fleischer for trying something different.
The heart to all of the action scenes is Josh Brolin, who seems to be the only actor in the film taking the material seriously. In a weird way, he probably walks away with the best performance. Without that heart that Brolin injects into the story, the action scenes would mean nothing. Brolin’s performance is juxtaposed by Sean Penn‘s Mickey Cohen, who might as well be Daniel Plainview chewing on a piece of steak, and Ryan Gosling‘s “cool” softspoken cop with a mysterious accent.
Everything is wrapped in a nice bow at the end of the movie, but after all the shootouts it felt like a weight lifted off of my chest. I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy the movie, but I really did. But Los Angeles-set movies are always better when you watch them in the City of Angeles itself.