'Gangster Squad' Review By John M

An Untouchables Wannabe.
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Directing
  • Visuals
Tragic events had a big impact on the film Gangster Squad. The Aurora shooting in July of last year made Warner Brothers postpone the film until January 11th, 2013 because of a certain scene in the film along with the violence. WB re-shot one major scene that took place in a theater and a few other scenes. Leading up to its original release date of September 7th, 2012 I really wanted to see Gangster Squad. The first trailer looked great with a great cast, but as the date approached for the new release date the new trailers didn't look as good as the first one along with bad early reviews lowered my expectations. I hoped the film would be as good as I had once thought it would be, but it isn't and from what I saw if it had been released in the summer the film would have bombed. At least in the normally dead time of January and February it has a chance to make money.

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.

Do you like this review?

Comments (18)

  1. T. King (Red Camera Man)

    @john-m: "Zombieland" wasn't really that bad, but I hate how so many people are raving over it like it's a complete masterpiece. I actually found it to be so overrated, and the story wasn't anything special or interesting to me at all. The dialogue at times was pretty ridiculous as well. That's just my opinion though.

    2 years agoby @redcameramanFlag

  2. John M

    @redcameraman: Thanks glad you like my review. Zombieland was awesome, but each to their own.

    2 years agoby @john-mFlag

  3. T. King (Red Camera Man)

    @john-m: I really was wondering if Ruben Fleischer was gonna improve better on the gangster genre instead of the continuing the comedy genre (haven't seen "30 Minutes Or Less," but thought "Zombieland" was just crap). This movie I'll just wait for DVD then. Nice review. :-)

    2 years agoby @redcameramanFlag

  4. Mr.K

    @john-m It wasn't the first time that Warner Bros. altered one of their movies. Sucker Punch suffered the same fate as Gangster Squad since the film was too violent when Zack finished filming the movie and Warner Bros. forced Zack to cut a lot of crucial footage (including important backstories to the main characters and some dark flashback sequences) and re-film the whole movie again to gain a PG-13 rating. The Extended Cut doesn't help sh*t either, only 8 extra minutes of was added for the hell of it.

    2 years agoby @mr-kFlag

  5. John M

    @crypt: Thank you glad you like my review. I can't be sure about other scenes being altered, but it seemed that way or the film was really badly edited.

    I think and many other agree, but we have some different opinions on films, so you might like it a little more then I did.

    2 years agoby @john-mFlag

  6. The Cryptkeeper: Resurrected

    @john-m Were there any other scenes altered/cut besides the theater scene?

    Great review dude. That's surprising they got a director that's only done comedies. Granted Zombieland was pretty decent, but I cannot see going from that to this, being a very easy transition.

    My buddy is taking me to see a movie today, and I'll be sure to tell him I heard this one was no good.

    2 years agoby @cryptFlag

  7. Julian Roman

    @john-m, agree 150% dude, a big disappointment

    2 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  8. John M

    @mr-k: Thank you I'm glad you liked my review. Actually I don't think there was a lot of hype for this film over the last few weeks and couple of months. No one was out there praising the film, certainly not many reviewers. Heck right before I went to see the film Thursday evening the film had a 38% rating on RT from around 80 reviews and now it's down to 32% from a hundred.

    As for A Haunted House you are right I know without a doubt that film would make Gangster Squad look like the best film ever.

    2 years agoby @john-mFlag

  9. Mr.K

    Excellent review. It may not live up the hype, but hey, it's enjoyable at least and 10x times better than A Haunted House.

    2 years agoby @mr-kFlag

  10. John M

    @skywise: Thanks I'm glad you like my review. Yeah I wanted to like this film after all I wanted to see it since early last year, but in my opinion it's a disappointment and I'd wait for it to come out on video to see it, but maybe you'll enjoy it more then I did.

    2 years agoby @john-mFlag

  11. John M

    @Zak-Lee-Ferguson: Thank you I'm glad you like my review.

    It's not necessarily a bad thing to have the same look and feel of another film it the film has a good story to separate it from the other film. Sadly Gangster Squad doesn't have that, but who knows maybe you'll enjoy it if you're seeing it.

    2 years agoby @john-mFlag

  12. John M

    @forrestgump1: I hope you enjoy the film.

    2 years agoby @john-mFlag

  13. John M

    @bawnian-dexeus: Thank you glad you liked it, and I do hope you enjoy the film more then I did.

    2 years agoby @john-mFlag

  14. skywise

    @john-m Great review although I am a little disapointed that it seems to be so flat.

    2 years agoby @skywiseFlag

  15. Bawnian©-Dexeus

    Seeing it soon, but hey, good review

    2 years agoby @bawnian-dexeusFlag

  16. Forrestgump1

    Sad to hear it, i'm seeing this today. Well see how it goes.

    2 years agoby @forrestgump1Flag

  17. Zak Lee Ferguson

    @john-m the story is very much Untouchables esque but it is not dismissing that...and it is far beyond better stylistically than Brian De Pama's Untouchables. Though it is a headache of a feature film. Nice review.

    2 years agoby @Zak-Lee-FergusonFlag