Gangster Squad is an amped up 21st century version of L.A. Confidential (1997) coupled with The Untouchables (1987). It is nowhere near these two films but its self-conscious stylization and aim to entertain works in its favor.
The squad is made up of several archetypes (read stock characters) like the leader (Josh Brolin), the cool guy (Ryan Gosling), the gunslinger from a spaghetti western (Robert Patrick), the brains (Giovanni Ribisi) and the two non-white characters for diversity (Anthony Mackie and Michael Pena). This band of misfits has to bring down the mob boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). For further melodrama add his damsel Grace Faraday (Emma Stone) who has a fling with one of the members of the squad and you have a story.
(Enter Ryan Gosling appreciation here)
There was a scene in the film, which involved the gang shooting people in a film theater. It was removed after the film theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado during the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. New portions of the film were shot, script re-written. There is a continuous debate that I have with myself about violence in movies. Somewhere I don't think filmmakers should be targeted for violence in real life. Yet, I believe they have a responsibility. I don't believe many filmmakers know how to use violence. Barring a few like Scorsese and Tarantino. Does Ruben Fleischer use violence responsibly? Not entirely. But will it make someone pick up a gun and start shooting people? I think not. At least I hope it doesn't.
The production design and Dion Beebe's camerawork add a bit of dazzle to the noir. The only let down is the prosaic writing. My main problem with the film was how it doesn't do anything original with the material. We have seen this story so many times in various movies, not just gangster films. With a cast this good, it only demands a great movie. Not just a slight entertainer.
(Also. There is Ryan Gosling so it's all good)
After I watched this film I was reminded of other films set in Los Angeles. To be specific, I was thinking of - Sunset Boulevard (1950) and In a Lonely Place (1950). These films aren't about gangsters but the people in the business of art and glamour. The city is home to the movie business, of course. I was also reminded of Chinatown (1974) since there was a scene in the film set in Chinatown. Why am I mentioning the films it reminded me of? Not only because I was hoping it was a great film like one of these but also because, Gangster Squad does something effective. It creates a sense of place, which has its own fantastical aura. It doesn't create an authentic feel of the city but it captures something about it. A character that the city has. It seems wounded, drenched in pain in need of a few angels to come its rescue.view less