Thursday, 10 January 2013

Gangster Squad

It's been four hundred and forty-one long, dark days since a new Ryan Gosling film was released in British cinemas. After 2011's glorious fourgasm of Blue Valentine, Drive, the ridiculously-punctuated Crazy, Stupid, Love. and The Ides Of March, 2012 was a miserable, Gosling-free year. No wonder the Mayans wanted to end it all: what's the point in carrying on in a world without Gos?
No point.

2013, however, is back on track. The Gozzler has four more films slated for release in the next twelve months and the first is Gangster Squad, Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer's '40s LA-set unintentional near-remake of The Untouchables, with Gosling in the Andy Garcia role of tough cop totty. The good news is that Gozboz is in it a lot, and he wears some nice suits.
The middling news is that Gangster Squad revels in a ludicrously fun comic-book aesthetic: all saturated colour palette, meaty cartoon violence and Sean Penn labouring under the misapprehension that he's in Dick Tracy. Even the relentless clich├ęs and cheddary dialogue feel like they fit because they're sitting in a bath of gloriously OTT nonsense. All of which is stupidly enjoyable for the first half hour or so, until it becomes clear that not everybody got the memo about this being some kind of pantomime. Including R-Gos.

And so the bad news is that Fleischer displays a total loss of control over the tone of his film, with over-earnest speeches and an anodyne love story rubbing up uncomfortably against Penn's comedy conk and Nick Nolte's Nick Nolteness. Too much of Gangster Squad takes itself bafflingly seriously when it should be smirking at its own stupidity, not least the titular squad, who - with their special skills - will be remarkably familiar to fans of the Red Dwarf episode Gunmen Of The Apocalypse:
Josh Brolin IS "Dangerous" Dan McGrew, bare fist fighter

Anthony Mackie IS Brett Riverboat, knife man

Robert Patrick IS The Riviera Kid *Spanish guitar sting*

 Nick Nolte IS the sozzled sheriff who can barely stand and has
no idea where he is, how he got there or what his purpose is

Not quite good enough, and not quite bad enough to be so bad it's good, Gangster Squad looks nice but has absolutely squad all to say about or add to its genre. But at least it contains a quarter of your recommended annual allowance of Gosling, the next portion of which is still an upsetting ninety-three days away.


  1. Brilliant review! I'm glad I'm not the only one to see the random Gangster Squad/Red Dwarf "Gunmen of the Apocalypse" similarities (it was Googling the two that brought me to your blog)!

    There is definitely a humorous YouTube vid to be had by editing the two together...

  2. I love your man crush on the mightiest of men, its second only to your obsession with Bond in terms of a good chuckle fest

  3. Good review. The dialogue and acting are over-the-top (Sean Penn in particular) in a very fun way. This is no lasting classic, but it is a good time.

  4. Honest and fearless, John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) of LAPD is assigned the job of taking down gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). He is asked to form his own unit, comprising of like-minded, skilled men who can put an end to Mickey's growing crime empire. He thus forms his own 'gangster squad'. The only difference being, his squad will have to violently kill in order to restore order in the city. When acting heavy-weights like Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling come together, one expects a mind-blowing effect, but that doesn't really happen. Gangster Squad engages and entertains you with its occasional humour, sleek slow-motion action sequences and stylized gun violence but somewhere falls short of substance and depth. As certain righteous cops fight for honour and justice, you do not feel enough for the characters. Filmmaker Ruben Fleischer is known for comedy. True to his style, he infuses some good humour in a few scenes. However, in the very next scene, you see extreme bloodshed. The transition doesn't seem too smooth here. That very style worked in his earlier film Zombieland (2009), owing to its genre, which was a comedy. Emma Stone as the gangster's moll gets a weak role. Ryan Gosling as the ladies-man seems repetitive. In spite of drawbacks though, the film is high on style and keeps you hooked, thanks to some superb stunts and performances by Josh Brolin and Sean Penn who looks absolutely menacing as Mickey Cohen, his gaze and body language perfect for his character. Brolin is as brilliant as the heroic cop who relentlessly chases Cohen down. As far as stunts are concerned, car chases and fist-fight scenes are superbly shot. The 1940's setting looks authentic too.