Review: 'Gangster Squad' Might Have To Sleep With The Fishes
January 12th, 2013 10:00am EST
Blessed with a great cast, style, attitude, jargon, and inevitable violence – “Gangster Squad” lacked its most important component: A script!
Quite disappointing, the first big film of 2013 had potential, but wound up a fumble for director Ruben Fleischer who practically flushed an all-star cast and premise that had pretty big shoes to fill considering powerful predecessors.
Based on the book by Paul Lieberman, "Gangster Squad" is set in post WWII Los Angeles where monstrous, New Yorker, true life mob boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) built a crime empire on extortion, gambling, murder, corruption and fear. Declaring war is a group of hard-knock cops (Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Peña, and Robert Patrick) who drop their badges and bring the pain.
What stands out with “Gangster Squad” is that it’s a film with tons of harsh attitude, sprinkled with style. Its production design plays backdrop to great performances, led by Sean Penn who hogs the camera with such ferociousness that at times may be a bit much.
On the other end of the spectrum is Josh Brolin, who plays the hero with an odd thrive for violence. Gritty, yet unmemorable, such is the result of a poorly written script (courtesy of Will Beall). Maintaining balance along with Brolin is Ryan Gosling, who rises above the material with a cocky-cool performance that has the right amount of swagger, but wouldn’t have been missed had he not been part of the cast. Gosling’s also part of a sub-plot that was such a waste, alongside Emma Stone, I cringed during scenes that entailed the both of them.
Violence is something “Gangster Squad” is not in short supply of, and it does get quite brutal, yet no matter how many threats are made, skulls are cracked, bodies are torn apart, and guns are fired. Never does the feeling of intimidation or danger come from gangsters or purpose from the cops. Quite aggravating, the aroma of mediocre stench rides high as just another missed opportunity.
Overall, seeing as I had high hopes when going into this film, this is far from reaching any level of comparison with great gangster films like “The Untouchables,” "LA Confidential," “Public Enemies,” or dare I say HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” – which can serve as a great teaching tool for both writer Will Beall and director Ruben Fleischer when it comes to laying out substances covering ALL that’s needed for a good mob-based, period piece.
Grade: C / Genre: Adaptation, Drama, Gangster, Violence / Rated: R / Run Time: 1 Hr. 50 Min.
Starring: Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Bryan Cranston, Michael Peña, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick, Nick Nolte
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
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Photo Credits: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.