MOVIE REVIEW: GANGSTER SQUAD (2013)

Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Cast: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Emma Stone
Director: Ruben Fleischer

Gangster Squad boasts an A-List cast and Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer, but apparently that’s not enough to make a great movie. I felt this movie was over the top at times, a little cheesy, and way too heavy handed with the gun violence. Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, and Sean Penn are definitely worth watching and I think they saved this movie from being plain bad.

Gangster Squad 2013 poster

Picture it:

1949. Los Angeles. Gangster Mickey Cohen (Penn) is terrorizing the city and Sgt. O’Mara (Brolin) leads a secret police unit tasked with driving Cohen out of town. Sgt. Wooters (Gosling) is the last cop to join the unit, and he’s also having an affair with Mickey’s girlfriend, Grace (Stone). Now, get yer guns ready!

Um, what kind of movie is this?

I couldn’t tell if this movie meant to be a spoof, or if there was just some bad acting and writing in certain spots. One scene that comes to mind: Gracie is at a club wearing THE red dress that you see in the poster, and she makes immediate eye contact with Wooters. Gracie speaks in a slow, drawling, breathy tone reminiscent of the 1940s leading ladies of Hollywood, and Wooters had an awful Bogart-esque, too cool for school tone. I almost laughed. But then I started thinking it was supposed to be serious.

Shoot ’em up!

I think ‘Guns’ should have top billing alongside Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling. Seriously, I tuned out during the numerous shooting scenes, and I thought it was a bit excessive.

Good cast…but two people didn’t mesh well.

Josh Brolin carried this movie as the earnest do-gooder O’Mara. We got a sense of his family life with his pregnant wife Connie, who is scared for his life as he hunts down Cohen. Sean Penn really hammed it up as the bad guy and he was fun to watch. I cringed through some of the scenes with Gosling and Stone though. On a scale of 1 to 10 their chemistry level was a 0, which surprised me because so many critics praised their chemistry in 2011’s Crazy, Stupid, Love. 

Final thought.

This movie was frustrating at times, because I felt some parts of the plot were rushed forward and other parts were only partially explored. However, I didn’t regret watching this movie because the actors were so damn good with the material they were given.

If you watched Gangster Squad let me know what you thought about it!

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MOVIE REVIEW: PAIN AND GAIN (2013)

Running time: 2 hours, 9 minutes
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris
Director: Michael Bay

I never thought I’d say this, but I went to a Michael Bay movie and had a good time! Pain & Gain has plenty of laugh out loud moments and a stand out performance from Dwayne Johnson. It is a little unsettling to watch though, because this movie is based on a true story of kidnapping, torture, and extortion. There’s also some jarring scenes here, so I think your enjoyment of the movie will depend on your personal tolerance level.

Pain and Gain 2013 poster

Quick Summary

Daniel Lugo (Wahlberg) is a fast talking, not-so-bright Miami bodybuilder at Sun Gym. He  enlists fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Mackie) and recently released convict Paul Doyle (Johnson) to help him execute a plan: extort assets from a new, wealthy Sun Gym member named Victor Kershaw (Shalhoub). Their plan quickly spirals into kidnapping, torture, and murder.

The Good

Dwayne Johnson is hilarious as Paul Doyle, a convict who wants to serve God but becomes increasingly conflicted during the extortion scheme. Johnson typically plays no-nonsense characters (see: Fast Five, Fast 6, Snitch, GI Joe), but his WWF/WWE fans know that he is a very funny guy. Rebel Wilson, who stars as Doorbal’s wife, and Johnson serve as the comedic relief in an otherwise depressing movie. One of the funniest scenes is Doyle cooking severed hands on a barbecue grill. It’s ludicrous, disgusting, and insane but Johnson plays it well.

The Bad

This is a very, very, very dark comedy, and after reading the true story I’ve decided that I can’t watch this again. It’s hard to laugh during this movie when you realize how much dismemberment and blood didn’t make the cut, considering the movie already has plenty of those elements in it. There are some scenes that are hard to watch, such as the scenario where the Sun Gym gang realized torture, fire, and an SUV won’t be enough to kill Kershaw.

Score a point for Michael Bay

I think Bay lucked upon this movie, so I don’t expect him to repeat this and deliver another good movie. Pain & Gain includes a couple of the typical Bay standards: hot, scantily clad women and an over-abundance of machismo and bravado, but these aspects seem credible given the story shown here.

Final thought

I enjoyed this movie up to a certain point and then it became uncomfortable. I can’t easily recommend this movie.