Gangster Squad is schizophrenic

January 22nd, 2013 at 5:01 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the Gangster Squad trailer.

Official movie poster of the Warner Bros. film Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad -a very very violent film- is “inspired by true events”.  Set in late 1949 LA mob leader (and former boxer) Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) is taking over organized crime and owning Los Angeles. Cops and judges are in his pocket, and people die gruesome deaths for the slightest let down.  The Police Chief (Nick Nolte) convinces Officer John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) to organize a group of off-the-record-crime-fighter types to take Cohen out at any cost. Each of them is almost stereotypical to this type of film and the characters are so fluff they hardly add to the film, yet without them, there’s no Gangster Squad.  Honorable mention goes to Ryan Gosling for the twinkle in his eye…but for the acting, especially in scenes with Emma Stone as Cohen’s girlfriend: I got nothing.

The set design and attention to detail of the vintage 40′s look were fun to watch, and the cinematography was well done, cast in shadows much of the time.  But, this combined with the occasion moment of acting brilliance from Sean Penn (that disappeared as quickly as it appeared), could not save a flailing screenplay adapted by Will Beall.

The violence was over the top.  The blaze of Tommy guns and the physical torture scenes were enough to turn your stomach.  And this, apparently is Gangster Squad Lite. Scenes involving a mass shooting in a theater were dropped after last year’s theater massacre in Colorado (some scenes needed rewrites and reshooting).

I can’t imagine it could have been more violent. Exhibit A: Cohen orders a rival mob boss’s man chained to two cars, ankles to one, wrists to another and then proceeds to have them drive away– ripping him to shreds. Shown on screen.  All of it.  It made me cringe.

Gangster Squad “coulda been a contender.” But, Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) couldn’t quite decide, despite the violence, if this was serious drama or not. It frequently felt like we were on the verge of spoofing gangster movies.


 Rated R for strong violence and language.

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