Gangster Squad (Review)

Gangster-SquadHas there ever really been a great movie made about the world of gangsters?

I vote no, and nothing in the awkwardly named Gangster Squad did anything to alter my mindset.

I saying that this film is probably either exactly what you might expect or possibly marginally better, but it remains no more than competent DVD rental fare.

Post war Los Angeles finds itself in the grip of vice at the hands of Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), a man so vicious and willingly violent that even the cops turn a blind eye.

So Police Chief Parker (Nick Nolte doing Nick Nolte type things) gruffly orders a hush-hush, top secret, on the down low group of cops willing to get their hands dirty and to risk their lives, to take down Cohen. And all off the books.

The squad is led by O’Mara (Josh Brolin), a rugged Joe who is as honest as the day is long, and who makes even his own wife gush about just how gosh-darn good and pure this guy is. He conscripts the usual bunch of disparate characters; the (late 40s) techie. The cold blooded gunslinger. The token black guy who knows these streets.

Here is a movie where once you know the one character trait of each guy, you can pause the film at any moment and know exactly what each guy will do or say next.

But O’Mara hasn’t finished casting his tommy gun totin, boy band pretty, gangster squad ™. Last but definitely least he finds sergeant Wooters (Ryan Gosling). A cop who cares so little for not only protocol but his own safety, to the extent that he is banging Mickey Cohen’s girl (Emma Stone) on the side and being none too careful about it. Initially Wooters is so ‘over’ this whole justice and doing the right thing, thing, but then a bad guy guns down his shoe shine boy…

Again though I must admit it wasn’t horrendous. Being a period piece the guys all get to dress up in spiffy suits, they drive nice 40s cars, carry shiny 40s weapons and talk in cool sounding 40s lingo. Most importantly they all get to wear hats almost all the time, and who nowadays is ballsy enough to do that? They even manage to find a role for Jon Polito, the guy from Miller’s Crossing, the only gangster film I can recall worth it’s salt.

Gangster Squad is so paint by numbers that it is almost embarrassing, with the violence being ratcheted up to compensate for the obvious plot and the all too bland casting decisions. It isn’t helped that the characters are so poorly drawn that you know who will die and in what order, given they all seem to only warrant one characteristic each.

Perhaps because of this most of the cast phone in their performances, especially Sean Penn, who only bothers to yell or show any emotion near the end of the film, and Emma Stone, who should be right at home with the snarky dame dialogue but seems lost in either Gosling’s eyes or the sheer lameness of her role.

Speaking of Gosling. I’m not sure if it was a character choice or if it was actually his voice, but Gosling talks like a duck on helium throughout this film, and he exudes about as much menace as a cabbage patch kid. Without him the film probably wouldn’t have made as much money, with him it simply isn’t much chop.

Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. I ask again; has there ever been a really good gangster film?

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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