‘Gangster Squad’ Is the Most January Movie Ever

Any seasoned cinephile is familiar with the January Movie: something genre-driven, with a kind of gray or bluish tint, that wouldn’t even register were it not released in the dead of winter, when we’ve already seen everything good but still don’t want to sit around the living room making conversation. Gangster Squad, I am pleased to report, takes this underwhelming formula to new heights lows middles.

First up, of course, you’ve got A-list talent wandering around doing laughable noir voices—Josh Brolin is a notch below Michael Shannon’s Boardwalk Empire growl, and Ryan Gosling landed near Al Pacino’s high-pitched Godfather. The ultraviolence is a Dashiell Hammett novel rendered as Itchy & Scratchy cartoon. Oh, and never have so many dudes fired WWII-era machine guns at people five feet away and missed entirely.

It’s Sean Penn who should be really pissed, though: easily the most impotent bad-guy super-mobster in half a century. The Terminator-like good guys (seriously, one of them is Robert Patrick, who played the T-1000) basically destroy his empire throughout the movie as he rages helplessly in a mansion and never comes close to exacting any adequate revenge. Plus, terrible makeup. And it looks like they ran out of money in the final fight scene, so it’s just a bunch of dark, grainy footage that Michael Mann may have cut from Public Enemies? All it was missing, really, was a labored nod to Chinatown. Just kidding! That’s in there, too. 

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‘Gangster Squad’: Old-Timey Cops Growl and Love Jay-Z

There’s been a fun little trend in movies in the last few years in which period films are all ramped-up and kick-ass. Remember A Knight’s Tale, the Heath Ledger-fronted middle ages comedy featuring a dance-off to David Bowie? Or Baz Luhrmann’s whole aesthetic? Well, now we can extend the same idea to La-La Land of the Golden Age of Hollywood, as the trailer for Gangster Squad, this fall’s ensemble drama about the LAPD’s war on organized crime, is set to Jay-Z. Sure, why not?

Gangster Squad, which I’m going to call Growlin’ Squad, features hard-broiled dudes like Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, and Nick Nolte teaming up with pretty boy Ryan Gosling (we know how I feel about him) to tell the story of the LAPD’s attempt to rid the city of East Coast Mafia-types in the ’40s and ’50s. If the trailer above is any indication of how things worked back then, these cops, who apparently shot everyone in a movie theater (an perfectly executed cinematic image that I am guessing takes a bit of liberty with historical accuracy), put the crooked policemen in L.A. Confidential to shame. Like Curtis Hanson’s movie (which celebrates its fifteenth anniversary this year), Gangster Squad features Mickey Cohen, although more prominently. We’ll have to wait for the actual film to see if there are any high-class Hollywood hookers, and I’m assuming that Danny DeVito won’t be getting waterboarded by Josh Brolin. Bummer!

I just hope Cohen isn’t the only big-name gangster in this movie, because I’m picturing this group of rag-tag L.A. cops as an older version of Monster Squad. Mickey Cohen’s got nards?

Emma Stone Will Probably Be in ‘Gangster Squad’

If Emma Stone’s career were any hotter, we’d all be begging her to stop taking roles, as our skin crackled and popped. The ubiquitous, SNL-obsessed actress has Crazy, Stupid, Love and The Help out in the next three weeks, and just wrapped up a successful weekend at Comic-Con, hawking her Spider-Man movie. Now, reports indicate she is this close to joining the all-star but Bryan Cranston-less cast of the L.A. mobster movie Gangster Squad.

Stone would play the female lead in story set in 1940s L.A., where a cop, played by Ryan Gosling, hunts down real-life mobster Mickey Cohen, played by Sean Penn. (Josh Brolin, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi and Michael Pena round out the cast.) Stone would play a “sharp-tongued siren,” and would find herself at the apex of a love triangle between Gosling and Penn. The role would also reunite her with her Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer, and her Today show partner, Ryan Gosling. Our takeaway from all this is that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling may or may not start dating soon.

Exclusive: Bryan Cranston Will Not Appear in ‘Gangster Squad’

Yesterday was Bryan Cranston day here on planet Earth, given that everyone was talking about the premiere of Breaking Bad‘s fourth season (or at least the record 2.6 million people that watched the episode). The three-time Emmy winner’s career couldn’t be hotter; he’s been racking up film roles at a startling pace (see his IMDb page for reference). But at a recent press junket for the new action comedy 30 Minutes or Less, director Ruben Fleischer revealed exclusively to BlackBook that Cranston has had to pull out of his next film, the highly anticipated Gangster Squad, due to scheduling conflicts. As Fleischer put it: “Bummer.”

Says the director:

This is a bummer, I don’t think he’s going to be able to be in the movie. He got offered Argo, and we were hoping he would be able to do Argo and then do our film, but it doesn’t look that way. Everybody wants a piece of Bryan now. He’s the belle of the ball.

Cranston was set to play Max Kennard, a “laconic LAPD officer from Texas who enforces the law ambitiously,” in this story of 1940s criminals and the cops who chase them. The movie also stars Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, and Josh Brolin. Argo—like Gangster Squad, it’s a Warner Bros. film—is set to be directed by Ben Affleck, and tells the story of a CIA agent (played by Affleck) who uses a fake Hollywood production to free six Americans during the Iran hostage crisis. (Ironically, Affleck was once attached to direct Gangster Squad.) As for Cranston, he just wrapped the Total Recall remake, and is currently filming Rock of Ages. So yeah, dude’s on fire.