With an excellent cast, a good writing team, and a quality director at the helm you would think “Gangster Squad” (trailer below) would be destined for greatness. Well you’re wrong (just like I was). While the action is heavy, and the effects are great, this suffers from poor editing, bad character development, and poor plot design.
“Gangster Squad” chronicles the LAPD’s fight to keep the East Coast Mafia out of Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s, and like all great gangster flicks it is based on a true story. The impressive cast includes Sean Penn (“I Am Sam”), Josh Brolin (“No Country for Old Men”), Robert Patrick (“Terminator 2: Judgment Day”), Ryan Gosling (“Crazy, Stupid, Love.”), Giovanni Ribisi (“Ted”), Anthony Mackie (“Real Steel”), Emma Stone (“The Amazing Spider-Man”), and Michael Pena (“End of Watch”).
The performances in this were all really excellent, but the only one that stands out and is worth talking about is Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen. He did such an exceptional job not only creating this menacing persona that would make you think he could destroy you in an instant, but he physically brought a lot of believability to it as well. The shots with him fighting people and punching things, I think, were the best parts of the entire flick. He just brought so much power with him to the role that anyone next to him on screen paled in comparison. Unfortunately no one else really did anything exceptional, but it was nice to see Robert Patrick on the big screen, and Emma Stone was nice eye candy (they really gave her nothing to do in this but look pretty).
The action in this was fast and furious, but it was lacking in creativity. There is nothing unique ever done in this, and that unfortunately takes away from the entertaining aspect of it. When you know exactly what is about to happen before it happens in every single scene there is a problem. On top of that the characters (besides Sean Penn’s) are all poorly developed. They spread too much love around to supporting characters that were expendable, and didn't spend enough time on the main characters. They failed because even when some of the supporting characters died you still didn't care.
I really liked the concept of the story in the beginning; the group was to go to war with Cohen’s gang and disassemble his operation one piece at a time, but at some point in the end the tone just switches and they have one final battle to the death. This is brought on by events shoe-horned into the final product after some last minute re-shoots and editing occurred due to the Colorado “The Dark Knight Rises” shooting, but the new footage was shot differently and at a completely different tone and pace than the rest of story. This made the ending seem sloppy and out of place, and it really throws the film.
If you can get past some action issues (they use one hand to fire .45 caliber Thompson machine guns with no recoil), bad character development, and the sloppy finale then at the end of the day you still have an entertaining gangster movie. Does it compare, in any way, to “The Untouchables” or similar genre fare? Absolutely not, but this isn't a total waste of your money, and Sean Penn being a bad-ass was certainly a sight to see. 3/5
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