I watched Gangster Squad last night with the expectation that I would be picking out interesting flourishes in the movie and having problems with the movie as a whole. That is pretty much what happened.
This movie is essentially the Untouchables with some amped up noir lingo but with the locale shifted to L.A. and Al Capone replaced with Mickey Cohen. All the hallmarks are there. There is the handpicked task force with Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling leading the charge (including the sharpshot- a welcome return from Robert Patrick and the wonky tech dork- ably dispatched by Giovanni Ribisi)). There is the charismatic villain caricature- supplied by a good Sean Penn. There are a lot of CGI-ish action sequences and unbelievable emphasis on violence which indicates to me a script issue or a lack of confidence in the material. Sure enough the script is clunky. Where LA Confidential and Miller’s Crossing soar, this movie fails in terms of dialogue and plot.
I have also decided that Ryan Gosling is this generation’s Kevin Costner. They are good looking guys with obvious personality outside of the film world. My problem with both of them is that the acting is flat, almost always- even when they are good. The attempts at injecting personality into their respective roles comes off as forced and pitched as if each scene is blocked 5 minutes before shooting. They also suffer from having grating voices. I would probably do better to turn the volume down and have subtitles. I think it bleeds a little over to Brolin who is supposed to be channeling Russell Crowe in LA Confidential. His performance is a little flat too, but I blame that on having a thinly developed character, not him.
That said, I think the movie has some panache. This is a brawny cast and you can’t help to get some excitement with it. Emma Stone is perfect in her role as Mickey Cohen’s right hand woman who fall’s for Gosling with expected results. Unfortunately, there are also so many characters that they feel thin and the final windup just left me unsatisfied. The screenplay itself is structured decently and does its darndest to bring a sense of late ’40’s LA, but too much of the dialogue falls flat for me and there is a sense of triteness. I could see everything coming a mile away.
The visuals are impressive and the set pieces are really good, so the movie is worth a look to see where Hollywood stands in that department. I thought the action scenes were interesting but in some ways over-stylized, as if this movie felt like it needed a last ditch effort to appeal to sub-29 year-olds. However, to reiterate, the movie looks good.
I’d give it a 5. It was definitely worth a look and there are some good scenes.
One particular name to watch out for in the future is Sullivan Stapleton. He plays Gosling’s friend that is an associate of Mickey Cohen. He eats up the screen in limited time he is on it and easily outshines Gosling. In a limited way, he is Tombstone’s Val Kilmer for this movie. I will be following his career closely.