Gangster Squad Review: Untouchables Lite

Start with a steaming base of LA Confidential, chuck in some chunks of LA Noire, sprinkle in some spice of Gosling, and VOILA – you’ve produced a sloppy plate of The Untouchables: Lite n Easy.

Oh dear lord, that was a god-awful movie.

Even though this was meant to be anchored by a heavyweight showdown between Josh Brolin and Sean Penn, lets all stop pretending that we didn’t go to watch this purely for our monthly dose of Gosling. Even then, the immortal Goz lets us down in this movie. He takes us traipsing back to the Mickey Mouse Club, where good is good and bad is bad and that’s all there is, folks.

Headed by Zombieland director, Ruben Fleischer, Gangster Squad dives into post-WWII Los Angeles where the city is fuelled by booze, whores, dope, and a healthy serving of corruption. It follows Josh Brolin as True Grit Llewellyn Hex playing grizzled Army veteran and good cop, Sgt. John O’Mara. Disillusioned by the state of his city, Josh Brolin takes crime into his own hands and forms a guerrilla band of do-gooder police pals to take down mobster boss-man, Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn).

Let me introduce you to Josh Brolin and friends:

Josh Brolin as Sgt. John O’Mara

I am the law. With a fedora.

Ryan Gosling as Sgt. Jerry Wooters (and the sexiest name award goes to?)

Hey, girl. No abs this time. Sorry, girl.

Giovanni Ribisi as former Army intelligence officer, Conwell Keeler

I wear glasses. Therefore, I must be intelligent. In fact, I am the only intelligence found in this entire movie.

Anthony Mackie as Detective Coleman Harris

Token Black dude.

Michael Peña as Detective Navidad Ramirez

Token Hispanic dude.

Robert Patrick as Detective Max Kennard

Gangster Squad Yoda.

with Emma Stone as Professional Companion, Grace Faraday

Skinny Christina Hendricks

Skinny Christina Hendricks

and Sean Penn as Angry Sean Penn

Mickey Cohen: “Die, paparazzi scum!”

Not to sound too trite, but Gangster Squad embodies the ethos of ‘style over substance’. It suffers from a weak script and uninspired direction. Even the visuals, the only notable aspect of the film, can be awarded only a 6 out of 10, tops. It tries too hard to be stylish, but fails painfully at everything.

It wouldn’t be quite so bad if this hadn’t already been done to death. Gangster Squad is like the swag little brother to the Ivy-League educated LA Confidential, with its staggering narrative complexity and themes of morality. Not to mention stylish – oh my god, so stylish. Then there’s The Untouchables – which I’ve never seen, but it’s hard to imagine Josh Brolin / Ryan Gosling / Sean Penn can even begin to rival the legendary triad of Kevin Costner / Sean Connery / Robert De Niro in terms of charisma. Hell, Gangster Squad is outshone by a video game. LA Noire outranks it throughout in terms of action, story, and style. Not to mention that Kenny Cosgrove is my jam:

Hands up, or I’ll drop you like Heinz Baked Beans!

A bad script can be forgiven if you’ve got electric performances. Unfortunately, the editing team for Gangster Squad seems to have a vendetta against all the lead actors, only including takes where everyone looks dead-eyed and flat. The protagonists have the intellectual capabilities of a fruit fly and the emotional capacity of a spoon. Sean Penn is no better – his Mickey Cohen is less mob boss and more the 2D Boss battle at the end of a side-scrolling video game.

Even the golden couple, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, are completely flaccid. If I can’t get narrative complexity, give me some raunchy chemistry! But no, Emma Stone is less sexy and more awkward while Ryan Gosling seems to be rocking a Brooklyn accent on helium. Observe:

You’d think you’d at least get some awesome beat-downs and booze raids by this so-called Gangster Squad. Alas, we get nothing more than a bunch of slow-mo bullets and the occasional fire. All their schemes are pretty idiotic too (shan’t spoil them!) – there doesn’t seem to be an ounce of IQ found between the lot of them. ITS ALL JUST SO UNCOOL.

Anyway, go judge for yourself. I’m just glad I didn’t spend the $18.50 it would’ve cost me to see it in the cinema:

Personal message to Ruben Fleischer: Maybe you should get back into the comedy game. Zombieland was bad ass, and Between Two Ferns could really use a tune up. I think Funny or Die is more your crowd. I’m sure Zach Galifianakis misses you. Leave the gangster movies to the big boys, k?

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