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“Gangster Squad” Review: A Waste of Fedoras

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“Gangster Squad” Review: A Waste of Fedoras

Wesley Emblidge

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(Left to right) Michael Pena, Ryan Gosling, Robert Patrick, Anthony Mackie and Josh Brolin, in “Gangster Squad”

I love a good crime-noir film; stuff like “The Third Man” or “The Maltese Falcon” have the perfect mix of all the things I want out of a movie. We don’t see much of those kinds of movies now, so a new film-noir that isn’t a remake or a sequel is a rare event. The new movie “Gangster Squad,” written by Will Beall (who hasn’t written anything before this, but is now writing the “Justice League” movie) and directed by Ruben Fleischer (of the enjoyable “Zombieland” and the mediocre “30 Minutes or Less”), is one such movie. But the genre of the film wasn’t the only cause for excitement; the film also has a cast full of promising names including Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, and more. It seemed like we would finally have a great throwback to classic crime films, something nostalgic that would have its own more modern style, too.

Too bad the film turned out to be terrible. What really kills “Gangster Squad” are a lot of those potentially excellent elements I listed above. Take, for example, Beall’s script, which focuses of a group of police officers who try to take down gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn); it’s a total mess. The script is ultra-serious, but full of really laughable dialogue and inadvertently goofy moments. The characters are all stock, almost to a laughable point.

Worse still, “Gangster Squad” throws out everything that makes real film-noir or even stuff like “The Untouchables” great: intelligence. The officers in this movie are forced to “go rogue” due to how corrupt the rest of the force is, but none of them seem to have any ideas outside of just shooting people. They stage attack after attack without ever having much of a plan. There’s even a scene where Jerry (Gosling) tells John (Brolin) that next time they really need to have a plan of attack and not just improvise, and John responds “It worked, didn’t it?” and leaves it at that. The closest the team gets to actual police work is bugging Cohen’s home, which doesn’t end up doing much anyway.

Not even the cast can save the movie. Most of the actors are just fine, not doing anything special, but the few who are trying something totally fail. Penn is completely out of place here with an insane over-the-top performance that is fun, but doesn’t belong in this movie. Gosling is just annoying; he seems to be trying to do a character voice of some sort, but I could barely understand a word he said.

To cap it all off, Fleischer choses some really terrible elements of stylization. The film is ugly looking and has a ton of distracting motion blur as a result of the lazy digital photography. Fleischer overuses slow motion, which has no place in a movie like this, along with excessively grotesque violence, which also really doesn’t belong. In the opening scene, for instance, a guy is pulled apart by two cars, and we see him pop open and spill out like a rotten tomato. It takes away any chance of class this movie could have had.

There are some fun bits here and there, along with some cool action that isn’t always ruined by the way it’s shot, but overall “Gangster Squad” is such a wasted opportunity. The overlong runtime doesn’t help either, nor do the female characters that are somehow even worse than the male ones.

 

2/5 Stars

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“Gangster Squad” Review: A Waste of Fedoras