'Gangster Squad' Review By John M
An Untouchables Wannabe.
The film is very loosely based on the late 1940's where a supposed elite police squad took down Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). The film starts off violently with Mickey have a "nice" talk with two representatives from the Chicago families and then Sergeant John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) busting up a ring of criminals taking advantage or young naïve women new to Los Angeles. With no outside influence from the east Mickey owns Los Angeles which includes the courts, politicians and much of the police, and lust for power he sets his sights are bigger goals which leads to Chief Bill Parke (Nick Nolte) to make a decision. The chief recruits O'Mara to lead a clandestine group of officers whose goal is to kick Cohen out of Los Angeles. The group of course includes the wise old veteran in Detective Max Kennard (Robert Patrick) and young partner/apprentice Detective Navidad Ramirez (Michael Peña), the young c*cky Sergeant Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), the street wise officer in Detective Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie) and the smart man in Detective Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi).
If this sounds and looks similar to Brian De Palma's highly praised Untouchables then you wouldn't be far off. If you've seen the Untouchables you can't help but see the similarities and compare the two, and it doesn't help that Gangster Squad has average written plot, badly written characters, average to bad acting and average action. Then there is the editing and the scene that replaced the original movie theater scene. I'll get to that in a few seconds. First I can believe something like this could happen in Los Angeles in that time period with a secret elite police squad. The problem is the writing of the characters. They are predictable and badly written giving no depth or meaning almost all of the characters, and that's sad because the film has a good cast with Penn, Brolin, Patrick, Gosling, Ribisi, Nolte and Emma Stone along with a good supporting cast. Mickey Cohen is written pretty over the top and to be honest Penn didn't handle the poorly written role well. Emma Stone (Grace Faraday) brings charm to every role she's in, but she has to be written as good character as she was for her roles in films like Zombieland and Spiderman. Here she is given a one dimensional character with no depth. You can tell Stone is doing the best she can with her poorly written character, but there is only so much she can do. It wasn't all bad there were some good performances in Nolte's Chief Parke, Patrick's Det. Kennard, but perhaps the best acting performance was by a supporting actor in Mireille Enos playing O'Mara's pregnant wife Connie O'Mara. I will say one more thing about the plot of the film the early part of the climax is pretty decent, but the final part of the climax is just bad and the epilogue narration is just laughably bad.
The action scenes are decent, but many seem poorly planned or badly edited, and that brings us back to the big new scene that was put in to replace the theater scene that was taken out of the film. I won't say much about it except it takes place in Chinatown. I'm not sure how the theater scene would have looked or how good it would have been, but the Chinatown scene was just bad. It was poorly done and terribly edited. You can just tell how they film was cut to include this action sequence. The directing by Ruben Fleischer and poorly done. He's only directed two other feature films in Zombieland and 30 Minutes or Less and both are primarily comedies. I understand directors want to change things up with projects, but I think Fleisher should have gotten a few other projects under his belt before he delved into this kind of territory. The score is done by Michaels by go to guy in Steve Jablonsky and I think he should stick to his big budget blockbusters like Battleship, Transformers, Pain and Gain and other films because his score here just isn't good.
After seeing this cut of Gangster Squad I wonder what the original cut of the film looked like. Was it better than this cut? I think it was, and I would like to see it because this version of Gangster Squad is very poorly written with average acting, average action, bad directing, terrible editing and a bad score. As I said if you've seen the Untouchables you can't help but compare this film to the Untouchables and Gangster Squad isn't even a good imitation of the film. I would recommend you skip this film and if you haven't seen the Untouchables to watch that instead or wait for Gangster Squad to come available on DVD/Blu-Ray and hopefully they'll have the original version and who knows that version might be better. It has to be because this version is just bad.