Dreadful in every respect. Ostensibly about an impeccably tailored group of LA police vigilantes formed to take down gangster Mickey Cohen in 1949, Gangster Squad sports a script so hackneyed it seems like a goof. The picture is a mash of The Untouchables and LA Confidential, if those films were re-written by a 13 year old boy whose sole inspiration was Rambo II.
“To the sarge. You’re a bull in a china shop but we’d follow you anywhere.”
“I’ve been with a lot of outfits but none better than you group of misfits”
“To the Gangster Squad!”
“I signed up for this so I could tell my boy I tried to do something about it”
“Can you remind me of the difference between us and them? Because at this point I can’t tell anymore.”
“If I leave, Keeler dies for nothing.”
“Tomorrow they’ll take my badge. Tonight I’m still a cop.”
“Let’s finish it.”
“We gotta’ take out that gun!”
“Watch this, hoss.” (six shooter beats machine gun)
“Wanna’ dance?” (Man with gun drops it so a fistfight can occur)
“Every man carries a badge. Mickey Cohen pledged allegiance to his own power.”
“Jerry threatened to leave the force but he never did. I guess he couldn’t shake the call of duty that echoed in his ears.”
You simply cannot believe what you are hearing.
The squad is led by the wooden and true Josh Brolin and is rounded out by a playboy (Ryan Gosling), a cowboy (Robert Patrick), a black guy (Anthony Mackie, who uses a knife just like James Coburn in The Magnificent Seven), a Hispanic (Michael Pena, who is Patrick’s Tonto, and maybe even his son, depending on your reading of a death scene), and a geek (Giovanni Ribisi).
Not quite Costner’s gang in The Untouchables, but damn close.
All the character are awful, but Gosling is by far the worst, utilizing a Brooklyn accent on helium. The result is a really dreamy Elmer Fudd.
And Sean Penn as Cohen?
See Sean Penn in Casualties of War.
The picture also gives us Emma Stone as the Kim Basingeresque world weary ingenue?
Taylor Swift must have been unavailable.
Ryan Gosling. “Don’t go.”
Emma Stone. “Don’t let me.”
The plot thuds along. Our avengers mess with Cohen, but their efforts must be expedited because Cohen is setting up a wire service which will give him control of all betting west of Chicago . . . in a week! If it becomes operational, he will be too big to take down.
But our heroes can’t find the location of this new wire service.
Perhaps they shouldn’t have blown up his trucks carrying the wire service equipment instead of following them.
No matter. Because Cohen places the wire service HQ, the jewel in his criminal crown, in the back of the nightclub that doubles as the hottest spot in LA.
The film was not well received but it is troubling that it was not roundly demolished, it is so crappy.
For example, in one scene, a thug’s overcoat (in balmy LA, mind you) catches on fire when he is backed into flames. He removes the burning coat, kills a man, and yet, in the next shot, voila! The overcoat has returned to his body, unsinged!
The film also shows Mickey Cohen watching footage of one of his boxing matches, an Cohen explains how he held on to the championship.
The real Cohen, however, never had a championship fight (he lost to World Featherweight Champion Tommy Paul two minutes into the first round), which I suppose is nitpicking. Yet, despite being a “championship” boxer, Cohen loses a fistfight to Brolin to close the movie, which is not nitpicking.
The following critics gave the film positive reviews: Ricardo Baca (Denver Post), Richard Roeper, Rafer Guzman (Newsday), Rex Reed (The New York Observer), John Hanlon (Big Hollywood) and Peter Debruge (Variety).
Follow the money, I say. Follow the money.