Thursday, October 3, 2013
I liked this one.
Anytime I see a trailer that makes me think, "that looks like fun," but then I skip it because the critics tore it apart, I always inevitably end up renting it and think, "that was fun." Long story short: This movie was fun. It wasn't amazing. It didn't do anything a couple dozen other movies didn't already do already, and probably better. It isn't going to change your life or offer a new way to look at the human condition. It won't even teach you much about real life gangster Mickey Cohen or the L.A.P.D. officers who took him down, since this was mostly a work of total fantasy.
But it was fun, and it will entertain you for a few hours. Who could ever ask for more than that?
Well, critics, I guess. They don't go to movies for fun, but because it's their job. If I was assigned with the task of seeing and writing about every movie that came out every week, I might crack a little too and take it out on otherwise harmless movies that usually only fail in not being better... if that makes any sense. Gangster Squad is the kind of movie about which there is little more to say than "that was fun," so I think it's the kind of movies that critics pan because writing a bad review is easier and more fun than writing a positive review.
But we were talking about Gangster Squad: It was fun. Great cast, solid script, and some truly exception action sequences. Between this film and Zombieland, director Ruben Fleischer proves he knows how to put together one hell of an action sequence, since some of the set pieces in this movie were off the hook, especially the jailbreak scene midway through the movie, and the show-stopping shootout at the end. Great stuff. He's let down a bit by his script, which is mostly just a bunch of cliches strung together into a film: Showing how evil the bad guy is, assembling the team of heroes, the inevitable death of a colleague, the big showdown, etc. One of the reasons a film like, say, the Untouchables is so great is because there wasn't a single member of the team that the audience didn't care about, so when Sean Connery and that little account finally got murdered (SPOILERS!!), both deaths were truly heartbreaking. When some of the team dies in this film, meh.
The cast did their best, however, and helped the director elevate the mostly mediocre script. Josh Brolin was our lead, and he's never been bad. Sean Penn chews the scenery as Mickey Cohen, and proves that he must've taken some acting lessons from Al Pacino or something. I don't know if I'd call his performance nuanced or even all that great, but he sure was fun to watch. Portrayals of Mickey Cohen on film have always been that of an old, fat, nebbishy Jew, so it was kind of fun to see him as a spectacularly scary psychopath. Don't ask me which portrayal was more historically accurate.
The rest of the cast included Giovanni Ribisi, Nick Nolte, Robert Patrick, Holt McCallany, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena, and Emma Stone. Now, that's a cool list of actors, and they all did great work, especially Robert Patrick as an aging gunslinger. That guy's always good and he stole every scene he was in. But can somebody please explain to me the appeal of Ryan Gosling? That guy's a bad actor, right? At least he was bad in this, which might be the only film of his I've seen. He's certainly handsome and looks great in the 1950s era suits, but every line of dialogue sounded as though he was reading off a cue card. I'm not joking, that's how bad he was. Thankfully his character was stoic and laconic, so he wasn't able to completely derail the film, but lord knows he was pretty bad.
Anyway, this was a fun, albeit slight cops vs gangsters movie that I recommend for fans of the genre, provided you've already seen LA Confidential, The Untouchables, or maybe even Mullholland Falls.