Warning: May contain spoilers
After a delayed release, Gangster Squad starring Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and Sean Penn arrives in theaters today. I really wanted to see this movie after seeing the trailer which is badass. With a cast like this, I figured the film had to be good and my expectations were fairly high. Did Gangster Squad live up to my expectations?
In a word, no. Gangster Squad is a flashy, violent homage to the Hollywood idea of gangsters and cops. The story revolves around Sgt. John O’Mara played by Josh Brolin who is recruited by Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) to take down gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) who has stronghold on Los Angeles. O’Mara recruits Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena, Robert Patrick and Giovanni Ribisi and they become the gangster squad. There is a lot of violence, explosions, Ryan Gosling hotness, but this film is not anything new. If you have seen enough movies, you know the where, when, who, what and why’s of the film. That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining, but if you are expecting something along the lines of LA Confidential, this is not the film for you.
The film is all style and no real substance. I enjoyed the film visually especially the costumes and set design, but there wasn’t enough character development and focus on the characters to get me to connect to the squad’s quest to destroy Mickey Cohen. I’m not sure why, but the only character I really connected with was O’Mara’s wife played by Mireille Enos. She was weary of what her husband was embarking on, but she supported him. I really liked her and enjoyed Enos’ portrayal of her.
This film is filled with great actors so on the acting front it is pretty solid. There are few moments where it borderlines on cheesy, but it doesn’t cross over that line with the exception of one performer, Sean Penn. It’s not that Penn is bad; it’s Sean Penn, I don’t think he can be bad in a film. However, there were times when Penn’s Mickey Cohen was over the top. This is a larger than life character and it is clear Penn is having fun (well as much fun as Sean Penn can have), but there is something about his portrayal of Mickey Cohen that borderlines cartoony. He is terrifying and worthless, but not in a way that I am really worried that he will win in the fight with the Josh Brolin and his squad.
As my first movie of 2013, I am not disappointed. Is it as good as I thought it would be? No. Is it the best gangster film I have ever seen? No. Did I enjoy it? Yes. It’s not the greatest film, but for mindless entertainment it does its job.