Gangster Squad Review

Genre: Crime
Action Director
Writers: Ruben Fleischer/Will Beall, Paul Lieberman
Cast: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone 
What’s Unique: A story from the pages of America’s recent history. 
Check It Out If You Liked: Pretty much any other gangster movie…but don’t expect much.


Plot:7/10                                                   Acting: 6/10
Representation of Genre:  4/10       Cinematography: 7/10
Effects/Environment: 6/10               Captivity: 4/10
Logical consistency:  5/10                Overall awesomeness: 6/10
Creativity: 3/10                                     Soundtrack/Music:  4/10


2012 ended in awesome fashion.  With films like Django Unchained and The Hobbit, the Hush crew and millions of Americans were left in anticipation for a great start in oh-thirteen.  Couldn’t be a better way to kick off the New Year than with the new crime thriller Gangster Squad!?  Right?… Wrong.  Sad to say folks, this star studded film was as lackluster as Lady Gaga in normal people clothes.  Let’s talk about the basics before I start dishing my beef.

Gangster Squad is about an undercover band of honest, but misfit Los Angeles cops in the late 1940’s whose purpose is to take down the meanest, baddest gangster in the west, Mickey Cohen.  Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) leads this ragtag team – all of whom have a (somewhat) unique background and special abilities – in their dangerous mission to topple this mobster’s empire.  Their pursuits put the lives of their loved ones on the line, all while struggling to achieve a seemingly impossible goal.  Also of critical note is the fact that this plot is inspired by real events.

Now … I’ll go over what is good about this movie; this won’t take long.  This film’s saving grace came from the big name cast.  With a crew like Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, and Robert Patrick (all who’ve had leading roles in some pretty popular films) it’s hard to completely write off this film.  Mix in a bit of Sean Penn and Emma Stone and it’s hard not to be impressed.  I love it when a crack team of cool guys with unique talents are assembled for a specific purpose.  Gangster Squad showcased a duty driven leader, O’Mara (Brolin), the smooth, nonchalant badass, Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Gosling), an old cowboy marksman, Max Kennard (Patrick) and his native protégé, Navidad Ramirez (Michael Pena), a nerdy genius, Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi) and – my favorite – a no nonsense black guy that throws pocket knives like a ninja, Coleman Harris (Mackie).  One would expect to see lots of character interaction, gritty dialogue, and just plain-ol’ great acting.  Well, pour one for the homie “expectations,” because of what little amount of character focus the producers implemented, there was STILL much to be desired come credits.  There just wasn’t enough character development (or Emma Stone) to redeem this vintage 40’s car crash of a film.  In fact, the only memorable action scene from the film (in this Hush-ers opinion) was the solitary car chase scene in which the Gangster Squad attacks one of Cohen’s drug shipments; and even THAT was pretty cliché.  That concludes my “positives” paragraph – get ready for some real talk now.

One word to describe Gangster Squad?  Choppy.  This film was riddled with logic inconsistencies, lack of creativity, action lags and an overwhelming sense of cheesiness.  The only time I like overwhelming cheese is when it’s on my nachos (of which I did NOT have during my viewing).  Movie makers with “inspired by true events” tags on their films already have half the work done for them.  This story already HAPPENED, thus the plot comes wrapped in a pretty bow.  All producers, writers and directors have to do is tell the story and tell it awesomely.  I typically frown on movies with this type of foundation – where creators don’t have to be creative.  But when done well, these bits of history can make for some of the most compelling stories (ergo Argo – HAH!)  Instead I was left with the following thoughts:  Where were all the other cops?!  No one is going to argue that LA in the 40’s wasn’t significantly affected by crooked cops.  But were there really only 5 good cops in all of LA?!?!  And if Cohen was supposed to be this über bad dude, why was his portrayal mostly that of a not so bright, not so scary, not so tough, whinny boss man?  As it turns out, this actually may not have been far from the truth.  A little Google research indicates that Cohen really wasn’t such a self-made crime lord.  He rode the coat tails of other notorious gangsters of the time and didn’t seem to have the know-how to stay on top for very long.  Accurate and boring – the lamest of combos.

Another thing that really irked me was the mechanism (or portrayal, rather) of Cohen’s downfall.  [SPOILER ALERT:] Grace Faraday (Emma Stone) volunteers as a witness to a murder Cohen personally commits.  In reality, Cohen was imprisoned on counts of tax-evasion, not murder [END SPOILER ALTER].  This could have been a function of the deep seeded corruption of the time, sure, but the film never clearly states.  Speaking of deep seeded corruption, one of the biggest mistakes was the gross lack of any behind the scenes, under-the-table, shady dealings.  I love films that take the time to make the non-action scenes as exciting and suspenseful as the gun fights.  The best we ever get in Gangster Squad is a scene where Cohen beats up a cop for not preventing an unpreventable stash-house raid and a scene of him yelling at a Chicago gangster while at dinner.  More points are deducted for failing to clearly explain or emphasize Cohen’s ultimate, evil plan for world domination – which, in actuality, was just a scheme to become the biggest bookie on the West Coast.  Add in really predictable deaths and an otherwise happy ending, and you end up with one bad movie.  I could continue, but this film is really not worth it.

Gangster Squad left a bad taste in my mouth, one that I’m anxious to “rinse out” with some other promising films dropping in early 2013.  Hush Comics gives Gangster Squad a 52% rank on its awesomeness scale.  Don’t waste your money on this film while it’s in theaters.  Wait until this one shows up in the instant queue on Netflix or when it comes on FX in 3-years’ time.  Even then, I couldn’t say with certainty that it’d be worth the wait.

Written by Taylor Lowe