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Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad
Drama (Action)
Rated: R
Running Time: 113 minutes
Starring: Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Nick Nolte, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Michael Pena, Giovanni Ribisi
Directed By: Ruben Fleischer
Rating: 5 out of 10
A secret task force is assembled to bring down a notorious Los Angeles mob boss.

That gangsta gangsta lovin, it’s got Sean Penn buggin. (I must be tired if I just quoted an old school Eve/Alicia Keys track.) Anyways, the worst thing a movie can be in this world is a poor man’s version of an existing film. Gangster Squad is very much the poor man’s version of The Untouchables. Or to quote my brother, “This film is Untouchables with Scurvy.” Gangster Squad is the story of a secret group of police officers. They are tasked to bring down the mafia kingpin, Mickey Cohen, who has the city of Los Angeles in his ruthless grip.

You can change the city, you can change the cast, and you can even change the character names. It doesn’t mean people won’t compare this to The Untouchables. I tried not to compare the two movies, but the storylines are so similar that it is impossible not to. Last statement on the matter, this movie couldn’t even carry Sean Connery’s jock strap, let alone fit into it. Taking place in the late 1940’s, the movie starts out and we see super cop Sgt. John O’Mara as he goes about his daily job. He is frustrated that no matter how many bad guys he brings in, they always get off without facing jail time. It is because the city of Los Angeles is a cesspool of crime and corruption. The judges, most of the police force, and a lot of the politicians are all on the bankroll of the notorious mob boss, Mickey Cohen. It is a decent start to the film as John O’Mara kicks some criminal ass in the opening moments of the film. With a reputation for rigid honesty and shocking brutality, O’Mara is the perfect choice to lead a secret task force in the fight against Mickey Cohen’s criminal empire. These rough and tumble men will carry no badges, they will make no arrests, and they will show no leniency as they try and destroy Cohen’s organization from the ground up. The task force quickly gets to work as they try and bring down everything from illegal casinos to heroin shipments. A tacky scene where the group fights a bunch of criminals in the style reminiscent of the old 60’s, Batman television show, does not set the tone well. Every punch that is thrown I was expecting a “Zap” or “Kapow” to show up in a cartoon bubble on the screen. This is not the last of cheesy fight scenes either.

It is not shocking that most of the acting in this movie is passable to good. They have a great veteran cast so the film was solid in the acting department. Sgt. John O’Mara is played by the easy to like Josh Brolin. Brolin, with his gruff voice and permanent frown is easy to watch in this. He leads his ragtag group of misfit cops by example and that is the right call. He kicks ass, and then can show a softer side as he relaxes with his pregnant wife at home. He is supported by Ryan Gosling who is playing Sgt. Jerry Wooters. Gosling was really the only one with the old time accent going in this. His quiet performance was smooth to compliment Brolin’s rough one. Gosling worked for me and once again shows he is good in pretty much anything he does. The biggest surprise for me was Mickey Cohen played by two time Oscar winner Sean Penn. Penn was an overacting mess in this film. His forced bravado and over the top performance was him clearly trying to capture another Oscar with the role. He also looked like a bad guy from the Dick Tracy movie which didn’t help matters. He was a big miss for me and a huge reason why the film struggles.

As the film continues on it just is hard not to pick on its weaknesses. Although fun to watch, the secret task force is made up of a clich├ęd bunch of characters. They reminded me of the A-Team almost. You had the sharpshooter and the tech guy. You had the rookie, and one of the characters could even throw knives like the Army trainer in the movie Starship Troopers. (“Put your hand on that wall, trooper.”) It was pretty comical. The film tries to be serious but I felt I was watching a cartoon at certain points. To be fair, there are very easy to watch scenes of violence. There are old time car chases, and machine gun shoot outs. There are exploding dynamite sticks, and gruesome scenes of torture. There are plenty of dead bodies on both sides, but there are not nearly enough of them to make this film viable. As the film sees itself to its finish, the viewer is treated to an out of place, and pathetic slow motion shootout that will test most viewers resolve. In conclusion, this film never hits the right notes for me. It has cheap camera work gimmicks, and an unneeded love story. It is not serious in any of the right moments, and Sean Penn was terrible. Despite all the negatives it was entertaining at times and very easy to watch. It also makes you want to talk like an old time gangster see.

I am not going to rip on director Ruben Fleischer too hard as he directed the movie Zombieland. He took risks in this film which is to be commended, but they didn’t pan out and that is where the movie faltered. The camera work was out of place, the tone of the film is off, and the story drags in many places. It also has glaring unoriginal parts that are taken from a variety of other movies. The film can be fun at times and the casting of the task squad was on point, but the film just felt wrong to me. This was a below average effort from Fleischer.

I cannot recommend this film as you would just be better served in watching the Untouchables again. This film was not the Chicago way….

T Factor + If you haven’t seen the Untouchables then this could score higher on the rating scale.

T Factor – If you do not like old fashioned gangster pieces then this could score lower on the rating scale.

If you liked this film reel recommendations: Knockaround Guys, The Departed.

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