Sunday, 7 July 2013

FILM: Gangster Squad (6/10)

Why did I watch it?
I was really looking forward to this film being released. It was a one of my top three most anticipated films of 2013. Reading quite a few of James Ellroy's books has made me a fan of the 1950's crime era in Los Angeles so this film looked right up my street, not to mention the stellar cast. 

What's it all about?
The year is 1949 and gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) has Los Angeles under his control. The LAPD authorise Sarge O'Mara (Josh Brolin) to recruit an unofficial unit, known as the Gangster Squad, charged with driving Cohen out of town by bringing down his criminal activities by any means necessary.

Should you watch it?
There is no doubting that director Ruben  Fleischer produced a stylish film, or perhaps the word flashy is actually more fitting, but to use a line as clichéd as the film itself, it's all style over substance.

I would like to see the original story behind the unit just to see how many of the unit's members were of the writers own making. The unit is literally an identi-kit of clichéd characters, the war veteran, the ladies man, the black dude, the nerdy one with the family, the old-should-be retired one. With the exception of Brolin and Gosling's characters, and Penn's over the top scene chewing Mickey Cohen, the rest of the film's big names are wasted on flimsy two dimensional roles. But hey, the slow-motion gun fire and car chase looks great though right? 

The film's production was not trouble free, what with the re-writing of a pivotal scene following the Aurora cinema tragedy but I really can't imagine that this missing scene could have saved Gangster Squad from being any other than an average crime flick.

Gangster Squad guy #1, Gangster Squad guy
#2, Gangster Squad guy #3.......
The main problem with Gangster Squad is it's competition. This story has been told before, think of L.A. Confidential (1950's LAPD) or The Untouchables (police unit against Al Capone), and both times the storytelling was superior.

Considering how good the film could have been with the cast and story at hand, Gangster Squad is a disappointingly average film but it's still probably worth checking out as one of 2013's biggest releases.


  1. Good review Mark. It's a silly film, but one that's at least fun, especially if you don't take it seriously. Still, there could have been a real, real good film here, had they tried at least.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Sean Penn and his prosthetics were definitely having fun! Would have loved to have the story in the hands of different writers and director.

  2. I hated this one. It's so mediocre.

    1. Strong opinion! It was very average and I was so hyped for it as well.

  3. I was really looking forward to checking out this film as the cast was top notch and I like the genre. Then the reviews started coming out ;-(

    I still plan to check it out at some point when it streaming for free but not till then.

    1. Good idea not to rush but still worth a watch if you like the genre.

      I try to avoid reviews for films I know I'll be seeing soon but in this case over 6 months past before I saw it so I couldn't help but read some comments and get a whiff of its disappointment.