Cast: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Sean Penn, Giovanni Ribisi, Mireille Enos, Nick Nolte
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Back to the world of the gangsters we go, with this latest summer release.
It's 1949 Hollywoodland to be precise - and inspired by a true story (ie, most of what you're about to see has an element of truth, but little else).
Former boxer and Mob boss Mickey Cohen (Penn in an occasionally cartoonish performance) is making a move on the Los Angeles scene, gradually manouvering himself to take off most of the rackets of the town and increase the tentacles of the bad old guys.
Sick and tired of the corruption within the system hindering the police's attempts to foil Mickey's plans, Chief Bill Parker (a grizzled and gruff Nolte) calls on former army soldier and current Sergeant John O'Mara (Brolin) to go beyond the means of the law and do whatever he can to prevent the criminal underbelly from winning the day.
So, O'Mara pulls together a motley crew of five, known as the Gangster Squad to try and help save the day, putting the gang of those operating outside of the law on a collision course with the corruption and the Mob.
Gangster Squad is a pulpy, trashier version of The Untouchables.
It's a film which is stylish, but chooses to go for cliche and full on violence while eschewing a subtle and smarter approach to the Mob vs police story which has been told time and time again.
So, in many ways, unfortunately it brings nothing new to the mobster genre and certainly does little to break the mould despite a fine ensemble cast and stylish overall feel.
That's not to say it's not enjoyable - merely, that if you're going to Gangster Squad expecting to see the 21st Century version of The Untouchables, you'll be disappointed with script and dialogue which is straight out of the 1950s RKO TV and Radio serial world. With cliched dialogue, the rat-a-tat-tat of tommy guns and fairly predictable story choices, mixed in with a gratuitous cacophony of bullets and plenty of slow-mo moments during the action sequences, it's eschewed subtlety for a predominance of violence. There's no sense of the bad guys being outsmarted - merely out-gunned by the opposition (a fact remarked on by one of the Squad.)
Of the ensemble, Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling impress most - from Brolin's stoic family cop, who's got a pregnant wife at home and a penchant for rescuing the dames, to Gosling's suave copper (although the scene where Gosling's character decides he'll sign up for the Squad is so cliched, it's laughable), they're the ones who shine out in this over-the-top and at times, cartoonish world. And as they're the ones who get the most screen time out of the ensemble, it's hard to really care for any of the others.
Emma Stone, while looking impressive in a series of vampish outfits, doesn't quite have the chops for the femme fatale character unfortunately, and Penn's trying to channel some of De Niro in his baddie but fails to do so in this wannabe crime noir which is too pulpy for its lofty ambitions.
All in all, Gangster Squad is no slick and sophisticated crime noir, and is more of a popcorn blockbuster, aimed at satiating the masses and is so superficial, you'll fuhgeddaboutit the minute you leave the cinema.