Tag Archives: josh brolin

Gangster Squad (2013)

“Well ya gotta die of somethin’.”

Cast: Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

gangster-squadIt’s a simple formula we have seen time and time again: A group of honest cops emerge from a corrupt police force to bring down a ruthless mob king. I’ve been getting into the mob/ gangster genre recently and I had been looking forward to the release of this film for a while. However the opening revealed that the film was “inspired by true events”, basically a disclaimer that it was going to be excessive, fast, fairly unrealistic and very loosely based on the actual history. From here on out, my expectations dwindled a little.

One of the main reasons I wanted to see this film was Ryan Gosling. The boy is doing well: Blue Valentine, Drive, The Ides of March – I couldn’t wait to see what else was in store for us with his continued choice of brilliant film roles. With him were Sean Penn and Emma Stone, two more actors who I quite like. These were the film’s saving graces, and probably the only reasons that it didn’t flop too hard.

They all provided quite standard performances, nothing out of this world, but that might have been down to the script – I’d like to think so anyway. Gosling and Stone were great to watch on screen together and they managed to rekindle the chemistry they had in Crazy Stupid Love, though it was more fiery and dangerous this time round. Penn was good as mob king Mickey Cohen, though I think he could have been a bit scarier. While he did capture moments of Cohen’s notoriety, I think he could have pushed further with this.

The cast all carried the potential to make this film better. However it seemed they were all hired to hit some sort of stereotype. To look at the gang of good cops just proves this: We have Josh Brolin, hero with a good heart. Ryan Gosling, womaniser, bad boy and cheeky chappy. Robert Patrick, old man who still has it. Anthony Mackie, black cop. Giovanni Ribisi, geeky electronics dude. Michael Pena, annoying tag along who saves the day. It’s very predicable. Unfortunately.

One of the things I quite liked was the look of overall the film. The cinematography was all very polished and the bright neon lights reflected the 50s era very well. It ran very smoothly and the gloss gave the film a nice appeal; quite a lot of films are choosing this sharp look recently. However I’m not too sure whether it suited the genre very well which is another hurdle the film falls at. Set in 1949, Gangster Squad is doing its best to rival films such as LA Confidential and Chinatown, but its glossy finish and slick feel doesn’t compare to the downright gritty realism these other films provide. This type of cinematography doesn’t coincide with such a dirty genre. I think it would have been better on the other end of the spectrum – colder, harder and bleaker.

Gangster Squad does prove to be an alright film, though it had potential to be much more than that. While it’s not up to standards you would hope, it does happen to fall into a ‘guilty pleasure’ type category. It’s a fun and entertaining watch so will be a good form of escapism for a few hours, but don’t go into it expecting something new or original.

Star rating:   6/10

Directed by Ruben Fleischer.

Running time 113 minutes.

Milk (2008)

“All men are created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words.”

Cast:  Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and Emile Hirsch

Milk

Sean Penn stars in the biographical film about Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist who went on to become the first openly gay man elected into the public office of California.

Milk is a truly moving film that captures the rise and fall of Harvey, who was unfortunately assassinated by Dan White (Josh Brolin), less than a year after he got into office.

The performances in this film are amazing. Especially from Penn who I have never seen connect with a script so well, his performance is most certainly the best and it’s great to see him pull off a role so well. Maybe it’s because of the undeniable history and influential role that Harvey Milk played in society. He is such an icon to the gay community and anyone that stands for equality, that I think everybody working on this project knew they had to do it justice. Brolin is fabulous as White and James Franco is brilliant as Harvey’s lover Scott Smith, really showing off his acting talents that are going to see him in this business for years.

The focus within the film was great. Yes, obviously there had to be a certain level of attention on Harvey as he is the film, but it never strays from the point at hand making it coherent and consistent, two great features that some films lose focus of when trying to be perfect in every way. It also doesn’t shy away when documenting Harvey’s life. Though he was fighting for a very just cause, Harvey wasn’t a saint and the film doesn’t paint him out to be – which only adds to his levels of humanity. Some directors may have tried to manipulate Harvey’s lifestyle in order to paint him as the perfect role model, yet it’s these little traits that really place the film in the category of a great biopic and not some distortion of the truth, which was a very redeeming factor.

Gus Van Sant directs the film and does so with a brilliant handle on the inspiring story. This film re-introduced him back to mainstream cinema as he had been directing art-house projects in previous years. It is smart, emotional, slick and very informative, and anyone who wants a closer look at Milk’s aspirations and vision should really turn to this film. Though these events happened just over 30 years ago it seems a lifetime away. The film gives great insight to a significant piece of history and shows how far we have come as a society since the late 70s, but don’t be fooled, we still have a long way to go.

I can’t recommend Milk enough, a fantastic film that shows the rise and fall of one of the most influential people in history and his fight for equality, Harvey Milk.

Star rating:  8/10

Directed by Gus Van Sant.

Running time 128 minutes.