Gangster Squad (Movie Review) – Josh Brolin leads an ensemble cast in an early January release that doesn’t suck

Gangster Squad. (2012). MPAA: R (for strong violence and language). Starring: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Anothony Mackie, and Michael Pena. Written by Will Beall. Directed by Ruben Fleischer.

January is the month that is shadowed in the world of Hollywood. Perhaps it’s because of the Oscar nominations being released in the late in December and nobody really pays attention to them. So, that’s the month Hollywood decides to “take out the trash.” It always happens. It is bound to happen this year. Thankfully, it’s not happening with Gangster Squad because, in all honesty, I really enjoyed this movie. It could be the plot, centering around the employment of a few cops by the chief to throw down their badges when off duty and hunt down the crime lord Mickey Cohen. Or maybe it’s the insane cast consisting of Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena, Emma Stone, Sean Penn, and Nick Nolte. Or perhaps it’s that it’s all based on true events. Eh, who really cares? What matters is that I had a heck of a time watching this hyper stylized early 1900s flick.

A lot of critics are slamming Gangster Squad, and I’m not quite sure why. The writing is below average, I must admit, and occasionally the violence feels a bit extreme; but ultimately, I feel that this is a film best watched if you just shut off your brain and enjoy. It’s fun, adrenaline fueled movie goodness. Josh Brolin delivers a solid performance that is probably the best part of the entire movie. Ryan Gosling, one of my favorite actors, is in the movie, and I’m not sure what he did to his voice, and I’m not sure if I like it either, but he does a fair job, including his sizzling chemistry with the ever adorable Emma Stone, one of the best parts of this entire movie. Nick Nolte offers his ever awesome speeches (even though he’s a little difficult to understand, as always) and Michael Pena gives a solid performance as well. The biggest and best of the lot, to no one’s surprise, I’m sure, is Sean Penn. He is over the top. Who cares? He has fun, and he’s entertaining. That’s all that counts in an early January movie.

The main problem with this film is the uneven script, which tends to shift between serious and comedic in a matter of seconds way too often and offers some crappy dialogue. Take that and combine it with Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer, and you have a rocky movie. It certainly feels that way. Some of the fight scenes have good choreography, but the camera cuts far too many times to make them enjoyable. It feels disjointed.

FINAL VERDICT: Though Gangster Squad may be a flawed film, it is certainly more enjoyable than expected from an early January release, and it offers a good cast, some cool visuals, good action, and let’s be honest, who can reject to look at Emma Stone? This is a thoroughly enjoyable action movie. (B)

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