Gangster Squad

Posted January 12, 2013 by in


Total Score

1.5/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: gangster
Director: Ruben Fleischer
MPAA Rating: R
Actors: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Sean Penn
Length: 113 minutes
Release Date: 01/11/2013
Studio: Langley Park Productions, Lin Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures

What We Disliked:

excessively violent, short on characters and story
What We Thought

Gangster Squad is a dumb and dull action flick masquerading as a gangster pic.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
Within the first ten minutes of Gangster Squad, there’s an attempted gang rape, two men are killed, another three are beaten and then killed.  After that, (in no particular order) there’s a car chase, a massacre, a shootout, a drive-by, a couple of fistfights, as well as various beatings and mob hits.  Gangster Squad is a dumb and dull action flick masquerading as a gangster movie.
     The story:  Police Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) assembles a team to go up against L.A. crime boss Mickey Cohen.  “The Gangster Squad” doesn’t carry badges or make arrests.  They conduct raids without warrants, and use excessive force to destroy Cohen’s criminal operations.
     The story of Gangster Squad is so thin that it can be described in two to three sentences.  Most of the film is wall-to-wall, ugly violence with little build-up or aftermath.
     Gangster Squad references De Palma’s The Untouchables, and shares similar stories and characters, but there’s a key difference.  Untouchable‘s Elliot Ness starts out as a by-the-books lawman, and learns he must go beyond the law to take down Capone.  But in Gangster Squad, Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) picks O’Mara to lead the team because O’Mara never bothers with warrants to begin with, so there’s no character arc.  Penn’s Cohen is just as static, but more monotonous, and his scenes leave no surprises.  Friend or foe, someone sharing a room with Cohen usually gets beaten or killed for failure to help or getting in his way.  We get it, he’s bad news.  Move on already.
     Emma Stone plays Cohen’s gun moll, but she’s all femme and no fatale.  The romance between herself and Ryan Gosling’s character is perfunctory, when their relationship could be an entire movie in and of itself.  There’s a mentoring relationship between sharpshot Kennard (Robert Patrick) and rookie Ramirez (Michael Pena) that parallels that between Connery and Costner’s characters in Untouchables, but Gangster Squad keeps them in the background.  Gangster Squad is unfocused and has a few too many characters, but that’s all it takes.
     Penn goes through Gangster Squad doing his best Pacino impression, as if the director said to him,”Be Scarface.”  At the climax of the film, Penn bears a pained expression before he utters the line, “Here comes Sandy Claus!” after which a shootout in front of a Christmas tree commences.  The shootout is done in slow-motion, and strangely focuses on the exploding Christmas ornaments rather than the shooters.  There’s a jarring contrast between the modern style of the film’s action sequences and the film’s old-school subject matter; 20th century gangsters in Fedoras, talking tough, smoking cigarettes, and shooting tommy guns.
     Gangster Squad is a freshman screenplay by Will Beall based on the book by Paul Lieberman.  Pic is the third film by Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer.  While his feature debut was promising, 30 Minutes or Less was a slight step down—moreso with this third film.  Here’s to hoping a fourth film will be a return to form.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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