What a way to spend the afternoon of my twenty-first birthday. What a way indeed. Before I go any further, I don't mean that in a necessarily bad way. My local theater had "Zero Dark Thirty", "Gangster Squad", and "Lincoln" to choose from and I'd already seen "Zero Dark Thirty" twice, I wasn't ever very interested in seeing "Lincoln" so I was left with "Gangster Squad" the "runt of the litter" so to speak. Even though I'd seen any review worth looking into, from the favorable to the less than so, I was still interested enough to sit down for nearly two hours and watch this worthy attempt.
The year is 1949 in the growing city of post-WWII Los Angeles, California. After making a less-than-conventional bust of a local rapist and his men, Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) is tasked by Chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte) to form a team of fellow policemen and "wage war" on rising gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) and take down his growing empire. Gathering hardheaded detective Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie), wire-tapper Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi), legendary gangster-killer Max Kennard (Robert Patrick) Kennard's partner, Navidad Ramirez (Michael Peña) and Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) to his squad, O'Mara and company set out to rid their city of Cohen and his poisonous influence.
Let me start this review off by saying that "Gangster Squad" is the best example of being a victim of circumstance. No one knows what will happen tomorrow, despite what some try to claim. No one could have expected that what happened during a showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" was going to happen or the aftereffects of such a horrific event. It was because of what happened that night that certain scenes of this movie, as well as the release date, were altered or simply removed altogether. Despite having seen this movie just a few hours ago, I'm still not entirely certain on where the "infamous" theater scene would have factored in. As for the release date... I can't recall when this was first set to hit theaters, but it HAD to have been better than mid/late January. As I sat in the theater (which I had all to myself by the by) I kept thinking to myself, "This should be an early Summer popcorn flick."
Another thought I had during this movie was why didn't another director try and helm this? I have nothing against Ruben Fleischer as a director, but "Gangster Squad" was all substance and no story. The "story" of this movie can be surmised in one sentence: An up-and-coming mobster threatens to poison the city of Los Angeles with his influence, but a group of rogue policemen will stop at nothing to get rid of him. There's the movie. Right there. That is essentially what happens in "Gangster Squad". There are no unforeseen plot twists, no legitimate or believable surprises, and an ending that anyone could see coming from a mile away. It was said by a fellow reviewer and friend that this movie needed the "Scorsese touch". I'm inclined to agree with that statement, I would even suggest that this movie needed the "Mann touch" but looking at that again... it just reads too weird.
As I sit at the small, circular table in my bedroom, there isn't really any more to say about this movie. The acting was... par for the course. There won't be any nominations for performances in this movie and if by some miracle that does happen, I will be as flabbergasted as anyone else. I've seen some comments about Gosling and his performance in this movie and while I respect and understand where those people are coming from, to me Gosling simply coasts through this movie. Even during the scenes that are supposed to be emotional and get you to the edge of your seat, which never happened for me.
The only performance that was ever enjoyable was that of Sean Penn's. Granted he wasn't given much to work with, but nearly every time he was on-screen the almost overbearing charisma that his character exuded wafted from the theater screen and back to where I was sitting. Now that I think about it... that's what that funny smell was.
In the end, I would only recommend this to someone if they were bored, had nothing better to do for a couple hours, and there was nothing else on television. As much as I wanted to love this movie, "Gangster Squad" could have been so much better. In a manner of speaking, this movie "died" from the unfortunate time that it was brought into this world.
This was a review by tMG, thank you for the read.