Oh Gangster Squad, you promised so much, but I just don’t feel like you delivered… Yes there was (plenty of) blood, yes there was a briefly topless Gosling, and yes Emma Stone looked exquisite; but there was almost no substance to this pulpy attempt at the classic film noir genre.
The film opens with the ultra-violent ripping apart of a man at the hands of a hilariously hammy Sean Penn as real-life LA based mobster Micky Cohen. On that level never really lets up, throwing shoot-outs, punch-ups and car-crashes into the mix every time your ears have recovered from the last blast of bullets. In fact, the film is so comic-book-esque in it’s take on violence I’m surprised it’s not a graphic novel adaptation. It reminded me immensely of Sin City, shot to look similarly epic, and narrated at times by a gravel-voiced violence veteran who speaks of the need to fight for the sake of innocents and the salvation of a city that may already be lost – oh so familiar, right?
Well in this case, battle lines are drawn between a hand-picked squad of the LA police department’s finest led by Josh Brolin’s good cop O’Mara, and including Gosling’s squeaky-voiced and amusingly named “Wooters” amongst others, who wage war against Cohen and his cronies. Penn, smothered in prosthetics, chews out spiel about how owning LA is his destiny, blah, blah, blah, while the cops get their shoot-on and indulge in some sneaky lady-love, well if you're Gosling's character anyway.
Who's afraid of Sean Penn? Erm, me!
The plot beyond this is largely irrelevant, it plays out almost exactly as you’d expect and there wasn’t one development you couldn’t guess at long beforehand. I found it incredibly hard to care what happened to any of them, even the delectable Gosling-Stone pairing whose chemistry lit up “Crazy, Stupid Love” a couple of years back. In fact, Stone’s character is so woefully underdeveloped you wonder why Fleisher cast someone so talented when she had little more to do than look gorgeous and wear her amazing 40’s wardrobe like a supermodel.
Beautiful people, being beautiful
To give this film it’s dues, it does look amazing; I want to drink in the bars, drive the cars, and would stop eating for a year to wear Stone’s dresses. The styling is sharp and spot on for the era, and it’s no surprise that Gosling looks really rather good in a zoot suit and fedora (can you sense a Gosling-is-God theme here?) Plus there are some great one-liners and well choreographed action scenes, but it doesn’t disguise the fact that this gang of talented actors haven’t been given enough to make it pop.
In a nutshell, if you’ve got 2 hours to kill you could probably do worse, and if you like your films riddled with bullet holes, dripping in wise-cracks and styled to the max then it’s for you, but for me it just didn’t hit the mark.
From their promo interviews - just because... Enjoy!