Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Markus Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Rated R for strong violence and language
Now playing at Century 20 Oakridge Mall in San Jose, California:
A movie that tries to be a compelling film noir, but is held down by its direction, “Gangster Squad” is no “Chinatown”, no “L.A. Confidential” and no “The Untouchables”, and as much as director Ruben Fleischer wants to be, he is no Martin Scorsese. Telling the story of 1949 Los Angeles, where a secret group of cops, played by the likes of Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Michael Pena, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick and Giovanni Rabisi, attempt to take take down mobster Mickey Cohen, this star studded film sets itself up to be a surefire hit. And then the movie starts. OK, since I’m sure every other critic has already made the easy “Crazy, Stupid, Love” jokes due to Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone taking the love interest roles once again, I’ll stay away from those. What I will say when pertaining to the acting here, is that mostly all the performances are just OK. Though saying that Ryan Gosling gives a performance which is deemed “just OK”, usually speak to the quality of one’s movie going experience.
Going in I truthfully wasn’t expecting much from “Gangster Squad, in the same way I don’t expect much from any movie with a pushed back release date (no matter what the reason). But what I saw here was a movie that really wasn’t so bad. In saying that, this film, with Scorsese-esque potential, is severely watered down by Fleisher’s CGI motivated visuals (none of which fits the story at all) turning “Gangster Squad” into a movie that really wasn’t so good either. Some of the biggest issues working against this film stem from the cartoonish feel throughout, with violence that is laughably depicted, great actors overacting and direction which contains more slow motion scenes than “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. And while within the exploitation genre these aspects may serve to enhance, in terms of “Gangster Squad” it is quickly discovered that Fleischer’s intended atmosphere is one of a fairly serious gangster movie.
This is not only an overly stylized endeavor, but basically a poorly directed one as well, with an underwhelming sense of 1940/50’s atmosphere. During scenes of action, the set designs looked utterly phony, and during scenes of non-action (due to some odd directorial choices) every actor on screen looks as if they are playing dress up. Seriously, “Mad Men” has better production value!
Yet, there is some good stuff here. In fact, there is about 20 minutes near the end of the second act, where “Gangster Squad” is a compelling, lean-forward in your chair type of film. Furthermore, Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen is the standout performance, mimicking more notable cinema gangsters of the 40’s. He is not great in the role, but he is memorable and seems to be the only one who understands the controlled over-the-topness this script calls for.
Final Thought: While “Gangster Squad” is fairly watchable, it may not be something you want to spend $11 dollars to see. The problems with it are still blaringly apparent; and clearly speak to the reasons as to why a film like this couldn’t propel itself onto an award worthy, or at least notable, level.
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