The Under-Ranked: Gangster Squad
It’s been an interesting road for Gangster Squad getting to theaters. Shot and finished in 2011, the film was scheduled for release in September 2012. However after the Aurora shooting last year, Gangster Squad was pushed to early 2013 in order to edit a scene in which a shooting occurred in a movie theater. Now Gangster Squad is finally coming out as one of the first big releases of the new year. Gangster Squad is the first drama from director Ruben Fleischer, who previously helmed the comedies Zombieland and 30 Minutes or Less. Before you go see Fleischer experiment in new genres this weekend, check out some of these under-ranked films from the stars of Gangster Squad.
In the last decade, Ryan Gosling has gone from “that guy from The New Mickey Mouse Club” to one of our greatest actors. His roles in films like Blue Valentine, Drive and Half Nelson have made Gosling a formidable talent and one of the finest stars coming out of young Hollywood. But before he became a huge name, one of his first forays into drama, The United States of Leland, was a glimpse of the great actors that was to come.
The United States of Leland is an incredibly dark film where Gosling plays Leland P. Fitzgerald, a young man who has been put in a juvenile detention center after murdering a mentally handicapped child. While it may be simple to place Leland as a monster, there is more the story than it seems. The United States of Leland features a great ensemble that includes Don Cheadle, Kevin Spacey, Michelle Williams and other Gangster Squad cast member Michael Peña. Leland was criticized for being muddled at times and having a problematic screenplay, but at the very least, it’s a great look at Gosling before he became the gigantic star he is today.
Josh Brolin has had an incredible comeback in the last decade, starring in some of the 2000s best movies, such as True Grit, Milk and No Country For Old Men, as well as working with directing greats Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino. But in 2010, Brolin starred in what is one of the biggest superhero disasters since Halle Berry made Catwoman. Yes, I’m talking about Jonah Hex.
Let me sell you on Jonah Hex, a film that I admittedly love and is one of the greatest guilty pleasure films for me. Considering how slick and formulaic superhero films have become, Jonah Hex is a rare instance where anything can happen, and usually the most insane things do happen. Screenwriters Neveldine & Taylor are known for creating insanity on film, with movies like the Crank series and Gamer, but they outdid themselves with Jonah Hex. It’s incredible that DC allowed Jonah Hex to be made, considering how many weird turns it takes. Granted, it’s not a good film, but it’s absolutely entertaining in the weirdest ways.
Much of what makes this movie incredible is its casting, which is all over the place. John Malkovich is over-the-top, even for him, as villain Quentin Turnbull. Also in a villainous role is Will Arnett, who has several darker roles on his résumé, but it’s hard to take him serious as Lieutenant Grass after seeing him as Gob on Arrested Development. Most surprisingly is that two of the greatest actors working today, Michael Fassbender and Michael Shannon appear in the most thankless and horrible roles.
I could talk about Jonah Hex all day, but I won’t. If you have 80 minutes to spare and want to see a movie that’s so-bad-it’s-good and wonder how such a film could be made, give Jonah Hex a try. Have some friends over, break out some alcohol, and I guarantee you’ll have a good time.
One of the more under-appreciated actors working today is the aforementioned Michael Peña, who has scene-stealing roles in two of Oscar’s Best Picture winners, Million Dollar Baby and Crash. His best role is in 2012’s End of Watch, a film that was sorely overlooked by audiences last year. Peña costars with Jake Gyllenhaal as two police officers in Los Angeles as they chronicle their day-to-day experiences and the craziness that can occur on their patrols. Screenwriter and director David Ayer has taken on gritty police dramas before, with Training Day and Dark Blue, but here Ayer is at his best. Ayer doesn’t look at these two cops with rose-colored glasses, but rather shows the mostly monotonous aspects of police work.
The largest flaw with End of Watch is the film’s found footage aesthetic, which holds the film back. However Ayer’s script and the great dynamic between Peña and Gyllenhaal more than makes up for it.