Originally scheduled to come out in September, “Gangster Squad” was pushed back to January because of the tragedy that took place in Aurora, Colorado back in July. In the original cut, there was a scene set in a movie theater where characters came through the screen and shot at an audience. That scene has been scrapped and replaced, but what remains is not quite enough.
The story follows Sergeant John O’Mara (Josh Brolin), a LAPD Detective, as he puts together a group of clean cops to try and take down mob boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) before he can take over the city.
The maker of the trailer for this movie deserves an award, because the made the film seem like it would be better than it was. “Gangster Squad” wants to be “The Untouchables,” but falls very short. It’s not a horrible film, but it’s not a good one either.
A majority of the blame falls on Fleischer, who directed “Zombieland” and the also disappointing “30 Minutes or Less.” He seems unsure of how to make a straight an action-drama like this should be, and instead delivers something that is style over substance. A major example of this is the use of slow motion. Fleischer uses the effect as if he just discovered the setting on the camera, using it in spots where it adds nothing.
The acting is all over the place as well. Sean Penn tries to play Cohen in a way similar to Robert Deniro’s portrayal of Al Capone in “The Untouchables,” but it comes across more annoying than intimidating or funny. Josh Brolin is fine as O’Mara, but the character is a type, the straight arrow cop, and therefore nothing memorable.
Gosling’s character of Jerry Wooters seems to have an interesting back-story, but he isn’t the protagonist of the story, O’Mara is, so we don’t get to spend enough time with him to develop the character completely. Emma Stone plays the token pretty girl, Gracie, and she certainly looks the part, but she never seems truly comfortable in the role, seeming a little out of place in the time period.
The best acting of the film actually comes from the rest of the squad. Robert Patrick, Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Mackie, and Michael Pena all deliver some quality lines, and in the little time they get to build their characters provide enough to endear them to the audience.
It’s not all bad though. This film has its moment where it shows promise, but it never fully delivers upon them. It’s really just “a popcorn flick,” meant to be cheap, mindless fun, and it only partially succeeds. It tries too hard to be both a spoof of a ’40s gangster film and a serious attempt to add to the genre.
In the end, it comes out as a perfect example of an average movie, but given its cast, it should be so much more. If you want to see a film about a group of cops trying to take down the mob just watch “The Untouchables.”
“Gangster Squad,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is rated R for strong violence and language. Running time: 113 minutes.”Gangster Squad” receives a 3 out 5 stars.