2011 was the year of Ryan Gosling. It was the year that everyone was introduced to an actor that they already knew but hadn't realized the badass potential.
2012 was sadly very Gosling light but luckily the movie gods had the good sense to release Gangster Squad in January 2013.
The trailer was enough to convince me but I was very aware that negative reviews were starting to filter through.
PLOT: Detective John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) is assigned to bring down notorious mob boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). O’Mara and his team - Jerry (Ryan Goslin), Harris (Anthony Mackie), Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi), Navidad (Michael Peña) and Kennard (Robert Patrick) turn in their badges and begin a vigilante campaign against Cohen. END PLOT
There is nothing new about Gangster Squad. The undercover team learning to work together to bring down the bad buy is not original. Gangster Squad attempts to rely on a stylish 1940’s backdrop to disguise the familiarity but fails to pull it off and behind the Hollywood gloss lies a paint by numbers script.
Generic plotting can usually be forgiven by decent casting and thankfully, for the most, part Gangster Squad got this spot on.
Josh Brolin is excellent as the straight laced O’Mara and bounces off the carefree Gosling very well. The supporting members of the team – Ribisi, Patrick and Peña are just as strong. I have always been a fan of Anthony Mackie but the amount of joy that arose from his appearance surprised me and as per usual he is brilliant but underused.
Emma Stone (although stunning) is hampered by an underwritten, and at times forgotten about, sub-love-plot with Gosling. They do not recapture their chemistry from Crazy, Stupid, Love but this is due to no fault of their own.
The weak link is Sean Penn - he is charisma free and permanently angry so essentially he is playing himself in a 1940’s suit.
The main problem with Gangster Squad is the tone. When the detectives are working together the film has some comedic moments however when we are “treated” to more Penn the film stutters and becomes very serious. Overall the tone is disjointed which means that Gangster Squad isn't sure what type of film it really wants to be.
In an empty cinema booing Penn and cheering Gosling’s casual charm meant that Gangster Squad was enjoyed much more than it deserved to be – it gets 7/10. It is sleek and has no substance but it is just about saved by the performances of Brolin and his detectives.