Okay, before I start this review, I wanna talk about something (that I’ll probably expand to a full blog post later.)
I want to talk about expectations. Now, when I first found out about this movie, it looked magnificent, mostly due to the all star cast. This cast is a cast from heaven. Heavy hitters like Nick Nolte, Josh Brolin, and Ryan Gosling, and the up-and-comers that haven’t quite made it big yet, like Anthony Mackie and Michael Pena.
Looking at the time period and subject matter, I was really pumped for this movie. I recently watched The Untouchables and L.A. Confidential, and those movies were AMAZING. Gangster squad looks like its in the same vein as those two, so expectations were high.
Then I found out that it wasn’t really a genuine, gangster flick. It was more of a “contemporary period piece”, if that makes sense at all. The only thing that’s from the period is the way they dress. It’s also full of a lot of stylish action set pieces. After I pulled my expectations back from L.A. Confidential to something like Fast Five, the movie became very enjoyable for me.
Alright, let’s dig into this movie.
The cast, as I mentioned before, is amazing. However, the characters they display are so generic, it sometimes seems that this movie is a parody of gangster flicks. Josh Brolin, the straight edge cop that doesn’t fall to corruption, (A theme that is really good for these kinds of movies, but is relegated to one sentence in Gangster Squad.) Ryan Gosling, the lady killer, Robert Patrick, the badass old guy, Nick Nolte, the proud police chief, Emma Stone, the girl trying to get out, etc. The actors are trying to hard to breathe life into these one dimensional characters, and only a few succeed. I’d say the best performances were from Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling.
Oh, and how could I forget Sean Penn. Sean Penn plays a very exaggerated villain, that yells and screams and is supposed to be scary. Honestly, I really liked him because I could tell he was having a lot of fun with his role. I didn’t mind the make up either, he was playing a big bad wolf villain after all.
The dialogue, oh dear lord. The lines are written in a very modern way, so it completely takes you out of the movie. They don’t speak like they’re in the 50’s, they speak like they’re in 2013. Also, you see glimmers of hope that Gangster Squad will dig into a more meaty subject than “KILL EM GOOOOOOD”, but they disappear after a sentence.
“What makes us different from them?”, asks Giovanni Ribisi. It brings up the rash and violent behavior that the gangster squad is using, just like Mickey Cohen. It could let the characters change throughout the movie, showing a significant arc. However, Josh Brolin basically says, “because we have to!”.
Another line is “War teaches you how to kill, not how to live.” This is also another really good theme, because many of the characters in this movie were previously soldiers of WWII. It could touch on the psychology of their actions, but the next scene has him putting a billion holes into gangsters with the typewriter.
Gangster Squad’s identity crisis is essentially its downfall. One scene has slow motion, stylized, Zack Snyder action, then the next has Josh Brolin telling his wife everything is fine.
One of the crew or cast said this about Gangster Squad (I don’t remember who). They said that in each decade, there was a gangster movie that defined the generation. Godfather, L.A. Confidential, The Departed, etc. He said that Gangster Squad was this decade’s defining gangster flick. I’d say he’s about right with this. This movie does represent our generation’s ADD when it comes to film. Fast, stylish action over a substantial plot.
In the end, it’s a very fun action movie. If you want to go out with your friends, and need something with a lot of explosions and guns, this is the movie for you. If you’re looking for a more substantial gangster flick, watch some of the classics.
FUN FACTOR: 9/10
GOOD FACTOR: 5/10
^ movie in a nutshell.