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Posted on 1/19/13 08:29 PM
Gangster Squad is a more stylized rehash of The Untouchables
By Patrick Howard
Ruben Fleischer, director of Zombieland, gave the month of January a chance for fun with his pulp gangster flick, Gangster Squad. Fleischer masterly uses the charm of A-list stars: Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, and Josh Brolin and the entertaining style of violence and cinematography to get the audience through the tiresome clichés.
Set in 1949 Los Angeles, Gangster Squad revolves around no nonsense L.A.P.D Sgt. John O'Mara played by Josh Brolin (Men in Black 3) who after making a brutal bust in the territory of mob boss Mickey Cohen played over the top by Sean Penn (Milk) is convinced by his superior, Chief Parker played by Nick Nolte (Warrior) to form a vigilante squad of Los Angeles' finest including Ryan Gosling, Robert Patrick, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, and Michael Pena to put a stop to Cohen's growing operations in L.A. These men ride in with no badges. No mercy.
The film is the unintentional remake of The Untouchables but doesn't unevenly bounce back from dull drama to pulp entertainment. The squad itself is an assemblage of super cops. Mackie is an ace with a knife; Patrick is an old west gunslinger that never misses; Ribisi is the brain of the group; Pena is Patrick's trust-worthy sidekick; and Gosling is, well, Ryan Gosling but with a nasally accent. Brolin and the squad have guilty fun with their stereotypes. This leads to very twisted humor during several violent montages of mobsters being blown away.
Sean Penn, with an even bigger nose this time around, is a perfect and sometimes hilarious eye bulging villain. Seriously, he can't get poked without flying off the deep end. Emma Stone does well with little what she's given based off her sexual and feisty appeal, but ends up being damsel-in-distress number 32. She has a romantic sub-plot with Gosling's Sgt. Jerry Wooters, but thanks for their passable chemistry the relationship isn't completely transparent.
Fleischer's flashy style never quits and transforms standard car chases and shoot-outs into exhilarating trips of cinema ecstasy. The cinematography gives each emotion the film carries its own distinct look. Scenes of passionate rage and anger move with blind and heated intensity. The constant violence is reminiscent of the creative violence of old grindhouse films like The Last House of the Left or Straw Dogs.
Gangster Squad may be a more appealing version of Brian De Palma's Untouchables, but it does fall victim for its source's dramatic plot points and other clichés of its genre. If you've seen The Untouchables, than you know who's going to die and who the final showdown will be between.
Gangster Squad isn't one of the most compelling and well-structured crime films, but it is one of the most entertaining guilty pleasures in recent memory. Is it unapologetically silly? Yes. These is a scene where Mickey Cohen is confronting one of his cronies after a drug shipment got ambushed by the squad and does nothing, but as Cohen leaves he says to his men, "alright boys, you know the drill." Next shot later is of that poor chum getting killed courtesy of a power drill through the head. Gangster Squad gets two and a half out of four popcorn bags.