Gangster Squad – 3 out of 5
Anyone else felt the need to play L.A. Noire after watching this?
|"I think that guy is lying...hit the triangle button."|
Gangster Squad—despite sounding like a bad rap super group—is a film loosely based on the real life Gangster Squad of the late 40s. Tired of dealing with mobster Mickey Cohen’s shit, Chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte) tells Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) to form a superhero team of great cops in order to take down Cohen’s enterprise—and not just arrest him but literally eff up his operation so that no one can come in and take over. We’re talking about setting fire to the bitch, pissing on the ashes and salting the earth so that nothing ever grows from it again.
|Guns always make you look cool, kids.|
O’Mara brings in his dream team in the form of a badass detective; Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie), a bug-placer extraordinaire with a name that sounds like an old school country artist; Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi), a gunslinger clearly born in the wrong era; Max Kennard (Robert Patrick—and I’ll do my best to not do a T-1000 reference in this review), the gunslinger’s partner; Navidad Ramirez (Michael Peña) and, after a reluctant start, O’Mara’s friend and fellow Sergeant that ends up falling for Cohen’s lady (Emma Stone); Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling). Together (and with their powers combined) they forgo calling on Captain Planet and proceed to kick a new hole in the backside of Cohen (Sean Penn).
|"Help, a bee stung my face."|
Gangster Squad does a lot right and a few things wrong. Sadly though, the things they get wrong really hurt the film. The story (even with its inaccuracies—because it wouldn’t be a period piece without ‘em!) is cool and the action is great. There’s enough automatic weapons fire in this film to give a Tommy gun a boner and the film looks fantastic. The deep rich color and shadows give the film a stylistic feel and it makes it look like the idealistic images that come to mind when we think of the late 40s and early 50s. In fact, nearly every second of the film looks picturesque and beautiful in its own way and it was this (and the action, of course) is why I decided to see it.
|"I told you not to put so much fire sauce on your burrito!"|
The film also host a fantastic cast of terrific actors and they all do their job fantastically. Everyone from Sean Penn as Cohen to Josh Brolin as O’Mara, each actor really shows why they are who they are in the industry. However, even though the cast is filled with an overabundance of talent, the characters within the story are flat and deflated.
|"I call my assortment of sex lubricants 'The Gangster Squad,' as well."|
Most members of the squad are given little to no character development and act as backup to the only two who are given any real construction; Brolin and Goslin’s characters. The rest are, for the most part, sidekicks to these two and you learn very little beyond their names and a skill that sets them apart from the rest and gives them cause to actually be on the squad. This is actually a shame because most of these men are given hints to a larger dynamic that is hidden behind them and these dynamics never come to light. For example, Anthony Mackie’s character is introduced as a no-nonsense officer of the law who’s not afraid to play it fast and loose but remain cool at the same time—kind of a loose cannon character. After his introduction, we don’t really see this play out. The same is done for Robert Patrick’s character who is shown to be a skilled gunman that still uses a six-shooter like he’s a cowboy—he even does that cool “throwing a can into the air and keeping it there by shooting its canny ass” thing that you only see in Bugs Bunny cartoons. After his introduction, not much is seen of this character’s skills until the credits are on the verge of appearing…and they were only kept at bay thanks to the six-shooter.
|And when that can hit the ground, he holstered his gun and then fired into the ground|
in order to lift his body into the air and inspire a young Yosemite Sam.
This ends up being the film’s biggest flaw and one that keeps the film from being something better than the “renter” that it is. We learn nearly every detail about Sgt. O’Mara and Sgt. Wooters to the point we know what they have for breakfast and what is at stake for them and their personal lives with this course of action but the other characters—ones who all come off interesting in their own way and had me desiring to learn more about them—we don’t learn much about them other than what is needed to differentiate them from one another enough through the use of basic character descriptions in case we forget their names.
|"Take out all the flowers, boys!"|
While Gangster Squad wasn’t terrible—its action is bullet-flying, fire blazing fun and it just is plain nice to look at—the film does little to be anything beyond a “one-timer” film for viewing. The movie is just good enough to watch once and give it a shot but it offers no replay value or offers anything beyond just giving it a try. It’s like testing out your roommate’s cooking after he joined cooking school. Chances are good the act won’t be entirely unpleasant but there might be a chance that you’ll find something in it that will be less than okay and keep you from enjoying it fully. I bring this up only because my roommate is now in cooking school and I need to convince him that the food poisoning I recently suffered had nothing to do with the soup he made the other day…but it totally did.