This film is proof how absurdly manipulative a film's trailers can be. Squad looked like an appetizing crime thriller, seductively wrapped with all the necessary ingredients and overall packaged like a sharp and witty gangster-flick, the kind Martin Scorsese reveled in during the reigning 90's.
Instead what you get is an excessively violent, pretentiously atmospheric and largely unfunny mess of cartoonish potboiler that is fundamentally flawed in the idea that it presents.
The rise of boxer-turned-mob-boss Micky Cohen (Sean Penn) in Hollywoodland has the LA police in a harrowed state, and to curtail his growing control over narcotics, the uptight police chief employs Johnny O Maara (Josh Brolin) to form an undercover team that will flesh out the dirt without being accounted for it.
It's the much exploited eye-for-an-eye rationale but the rather challenging bit here is accepting the upholders of law going so absurdly overboard in this exercise of draining out the criminally wasted.
So, in the ultra-stylized slow-motion scenes where bullet shreds look like three dimensional objects and glass pieces patiently tear themselves apart, one cannot really differentiate who slashed who, and unsurprisingly, you don't care for either side or any character in particular.
The writers try hard to give an emotional dimension to much of the members of the squad (the cyber-expert has a cutesy-kid, Gosling's bedding Cohen's number one, Josh Brolin's got a pregnant wife, so on and so forth for the sympathy-factor to stay), but this occasionally humane aspect appears in direct conflict with the unapologetically harsh ways of the motley group of â€œlegitimateâ€ assassins. Add to it the obscenely displaced humor which does nothing to diffuse the tension from the scene, or aggravate it, but primarily tries to shift the focus from the many failings of this elaborate exercise.
It is the performance of Sean Penn and Ryan Gosling that hold the narrative with some precision, and probably make this one worth a single-time watch. The attention paid to the details of the time-period the film is set in - right from the neon-lit bars to the eloquent costumes to the gait, and conversational style of the characters, the film's production design and art-direction are undeniably top-notch.
But otherwise, Squad masquerades as an explosive noir gangster flick while it really is an over-the-top violent orgy of the satirical kind made worse with the schmaltzy Nolan-esque moralizing towards its end.