Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writer: Will Beall
Stars: Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone
Gangster Squad is the story of a select group of LAPD officers working above the law to fight Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) in 1950s LA. Cohen runs the City with impunity. He has most of the police force, judiciary, and prosecutors office in his pocket in LA and the surrounding cities. He dreams large and plans to be the top man in the City; nothing is going to stop him.
Enter Chief Parker (Nick Nolte). Parker enlists Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) to start a clandestine police squad whose purpose is to take down Mickey Cohen. The men are to operate outside regular legal channels. When they make their move they go in with no names, no badges, and no mercy. O’Mara’s pregnant wife, Connie (Mireille Enos), is not happy with the news of the squad, but eventually helps O’Mara select his recruits. In short order he has his team.
The first sting goes horribly wrong with two of the squad ending up in the Burbank jail. If not for the well-timed intervention of Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), a cop who originally rejected O’Mara’s offer, the whole operation would have been finished before it started. But Wooters involvement also brings trouble; he’s dating Grace Faraday (Emma Stone)–Mickey Cohen’s current squeeze.
Gangster Squad is a bizarre combination of The Untouchables and L.A. Confidential that goes horribly wrong. It is a perfect example of style over substance.
The greatest failing of the movie is the story, followed closely by poor editing. There are giant leaps in narrative events–in effect too much happens too soon. Couple this situation with editing where it appears key scenes were left on the cutting room floor and you have a very choppy film. The director, Ruben Fleischer, also makes poor choices. In a film where all the gangsters are horrible shots and the good guys have incredible aim, he choses to show a pivotal shoot-out in painful slow motion. As literally hundreds of bullets fly, the mobsters only successfully destroy the hotel lobby center piece while O’Mara & company lay waste to them. As yet another piece of fruit slowly flies in the air and is finally destroyed by another whizzing bullet, you begin to notice that six shooters are now ten shooters and the machine guns appear to have a limitless supply of ammunition.
For a film with a well-known cast, the acting is surprisingly mediocre. Brolin and Stone appear to be bored, Penn is overly hammy, and Gosling chose to use and amazingly wispy voice. (Admittedly, I have not watched many Ryan Gosling films so this may in fact be his actual voice, but I have never noticed it before.) The only actor who appeared to be trying was Giovanni Ribisi as Conway Keeler, the smart guy of the squad.
The only success of the film is its look. The set design, art direction, and costuming all worked to convey a sense of a stylized and very cinematic take of gangland LA.
Grade = D