Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writer: Will Beall
Based on: Paul Lieberman’s book Tales from the Gangster Squad
Cast: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone, Michael Peña, Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Nick Nolte
1949 in Los Angeles: former boxer Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) is taking over the city with his criminal empire. The police is mostly bought by him and those who aren’t are too few to do anything about it. That is when Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) asks Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) to form an unofficial squad of police men to destroy Cohen’s operation – with any means necessary. So O’Mara gathers some men around him and gets to work.
Gangster Squad is astonishingly bad. You’ve got this excellent cast and a potentially stylish setting, and it’s all ruined by a script that is so stupid it’s practically negligent and a particularly inept direction.
When I saw the trailer to this film, I was already worried. But naively I thought that they wouldn’t really try to paint a group of police men turned illegal vigilantes as the heroes. At least not without a few shades of grey. Well, I was completely wrong, because that’s exactly what they did. We are supposed to root for these guys, as they murder their way through LA, constantly reassured by the dialogue and the script that they are still the good guys and that hard times call for hard measures. It’s all for the good of the people. They really are heroes, who risk everything to save the people from the failing, incompetent law that keeps coming up short.
The only one who voices some doubt about the appropriateness gets killed off right afterwards and with him all dissension dies. And really, when the character played by Giovanni Ribisi is the moral center of your film, you have a giant problem. [I think Ribisi is a talented and often overlooked actor, but he’s really not known for playing the most stable guys.]
With that message in mind, the best script would be hard to stomach, but here it’s not only the framing of the story that’s really bad, it’s also the dialogues that are completely ridiculous. And there are no actual characters in it. That it works at least sometimes is all to the credit of the cast who are generally good, but absolutely wasted here.
Not only the script is to blame. Ruben Fleischer brings absolutely nothing to this film that is like so many others, only worse, somehow. Sean Penn’s make-up is so ridiculous, you can’t even take him halfway serious. But most egregiously offensive of it all was the editing with jarring cuts and no sense of timing.
I read some reviews which are wondering if this movie is an extremely dry parody of gangster movies. If so, it failed to show that it was a parody. If not, it failed as a film entire. Either way, it failed.
Summarising: Not even Ryan Gosling is really worth this movie.