Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Ruben Fleischer needs lessons in concentration. His last film, 30 Minutes Or Less, felt more like a series of comedy sketches than a single story and now his so-serious-it-becomes-laughable take on the gangster genre arrives with a raft of directorial flourishes that never cohere into a sustained style.

There's a splash of slow-motion here, a dash of freeze-frame there but it's as though Fleischer is trying them out for kicks rather than seeking to use them to lead us through the film.

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LA in 1949 is a tough place to be a cop. With kingpin Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn, resembling an early Batman villain or a stray from Dick Tracy) happily tearing the opposition limb from limb if lining the right pockets with cash doesn't get the job done. Meanwhile, boxing for the good guys, is Irish cop John O'Mara (Josh Brolin), an incorruptible sort who just wants to build a better town for his wife (Mireille Enos) and soon-to-be-born child.

Given the go-head to take the gloves off, O'Mara assembles a perfectly ethnically mixed gang of clean cops to hit every box office demographic, oh, sorry, I mean, to take down Cohen. There's blade-wielding Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie), wet-lipped gal-slaying pretty boy Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), gruff old-time sharp-shooter Max Kennard (Robert Patrick), his hispanic side-kick Navidad Ramirez (Michael Peña, utterly wasted here) and brain box Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi). The team proceed to wreak violence on every part of Cohen's empire - while Jerry chats up his moll Grace (Emma Stone) - with their acts of carnage deemed perfectly okay because the are On The Side of Good.

Despite the high production values, this film is low-rent. There is a moment where the morally dubious nature of what the squad are doing could be held up to the light but why do that when you're racing on to the next punch up?

The characterisation is one-note with everyone seemingly 'doing a voice' and outbreaks of emotion get swung about like loose punches in a brawl - gung-ho yet completely missing the target. In fact, the violence is so ridiculously amped up, I was almost expecting Batman-style "Pow" and "Thwack" style fight words to appear at the end of O'Mara's knuckles. Coupled with a thin plot riddled with cliche bullets so awful they are beyond parody ("I don't need a hero, Sarg, I need a husband"), Gangster Squad is full of noise, nonsense and precious little else.

Reviewed on: 10 Jan 2013
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A group of incorruptible cops take on a kingpin in post-war LA.
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Director: Ruben Fleischer

Writer: Will Beall, based on the book by Paul Lieberman

Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Peña, Robert Patrick, Nick Nolte

Year: 2013

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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