Excerpt: It's late 1949 and the afterglow of winning World War II has begun to fade from the US, slowly being replaced with the corruption inherent with being the richest kid on the block. Even starstruck Hollywood isn't immune, as ruthless boxer-turned-gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) slowly closes his grip over the city.
Excerpt: Great gangster films tend to come along at cultural flashpoints, especially when economic woes plague our country. The great example, of course, is all those Warner Bros. gangster pictures made during the Depression, but it's happened pretty consistently for most of the last century. The reason is probably twofold.
Excerpt: Ah the January movie. So many studios save their “B” list fodder for the post-Holiday crowds that it’s quite a rare feat to find a good one. Take a look back at some of the movies that have come out in January and I challenge you to find one that’s either made a profit or has any semblance of critical acclaim. Can’t find one? Did you look? Ok.
Excerpt: The cops in Gangster Squad are yanked from their seats like a backyard baseball team. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) is tasked with taking on mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), but must do so without the support of a corrupt police department. O’Mara is on his own, and with his plucky (and very pregnant) wife, they set out to find a garbled bunch of oddball, underdog characters for the task. You know the types.
Conclusion: Given its potentially rich subject matter and talented, accomplished makers, Gangster Squad is less than you hope and expect. Valuing style over substance, it looks nice, but sounds dumb, its problems too glaring to blame on re-edits, delays, or historically weak timing. There are far worse movies out there, but not many are as disappointing as this one.
Summary: In addition to The Untouchables , the film nods to The Dirty Dozen , Ocean’s Eleven (when O’Mara sets about recruiting his team) and a number of other great movies where a scrappy group of guys team up to take on a seemingly impossible mission. Gangster Squad doesn’t quite reach that level. Although the violence in the film has taken on an unfortunate resonance due to real-life events, this movie deserves to be seen and remembered on its own merits.
Conclusion: 'Gangster Squad' tries its best to recreate a volatile period in Los Angeles history, and though this violent, action-packed shoot-'em-up certainly stokes the senses, it never stimulates the brain or stirs the soul. The cliché-ridden script, a cartoonish performance from Sean Penn, heaping helpings of violence, and historically inaccurate plotlines all conspire to sabotage what could have been an incisive, nostalgic underworld portrait.
Conclusion: There'll be those who wholeheartedly enjoy Gangster Squad . Then there will be those who'll be ready to pull the trigger before it even starts killing everything that moves; those dissatisfied with its endless clichés and tough guy melodrama, unimpressed with its script and performances, and disappointed that a movie with a cast this talented failed to put them to good use. It so desperately wants to rub shoulders with The Untouchables , L.A.