Danijel's Review of Gangster Squad
What made the original noirs of the forties so magnetic was the sense of something being different without the explanation of what that is or where the difference came from. That change manifested itself both as a shift in movie realism and as a new kind of world those movies were portraying. The cities remained the same, the cost of California was, I believe, as sunny as before, but people who inhabited this familiar world were, the filmmakers suggested, pushed away from the pleasures of the west coast by something deep inside them. If you wanted to search for causes in the big world event of that period, nobody had in mind the idea of stopping you. Indeed, you would probably have been on the right track. You were not, however, pushed in that direction.
Back to the present now. In the very first sentences of this over the top, politically correct picture book named Gangster Squad, Sergeant John O'Marra (Josh Brolin) informs us that he has been fighting abroad and winning a couple of medals. He is now back in the ever more corrupt LA, where his pregnant, devoted wife isn't capable of turning him out of the desire to set straight all of the wrongs. When he finally gets his chance to go after the big guy Micky Cohen (Sean Penn), the next logical step is choosing couple of brave ones to take along, which he does in Brian De Palma Untouchables style (though it comes of as flashiness worthy of Armagedon). They include his partner Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), technician Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi), an old timer from the south, a black guy and a Mexican (Indian minority was covered in a brief scene where a witty comment was made about their mistreatment in Hollywood). One more connection with Cohen is the hooking up of Wooters with gangster's mistress Grace (Emma Stone).
As it manages to even be self-referential about the war experience in the first 30 minutes,Ruben Fleischer's film takes a moral stand right from the beginning, one where an honorable badge and justice are placed against greed and moral corruption, and it does that in such an blatant way that you are forced to consider of taking it seriously. And there is nothing more deadly for a film this devoid of any character substance or story wisdom than for us to take it seriously. It suggest that violence can be defeated with more violence, and that the final result of that will be harmony and peace. Maybe Fleischer's friends should buy him few history books as a birthday present, desirably about any revolution that ever took place. One must wonder what to do with scenes like you know the drill. If you haven't seen it, I'll let you discover it by yourself in all of its misplacement.
Of the main performers, Josh Brolin and Emma Stone look less ridiculous then the others. This has got to be the ultimate low in Sean Penn's carrier. His boss comes out as an impersonation of Robert De Niro in those comedies where he parodied his tough-guy image. As for Ryan Gosling he continuously mails to us just how thin the facade of his cynicism really is, not that the script works in his advantage, since that facade is crushed after about 20 minutes in order for him to join the just cause of the operation. This is the first film in which I could see why he gets on the nerves of so many people with his acting style.
Ultimately, it is one of those film where its aficionados will defend it by saying things like: "they've done the blood realistically after that head shot or when the old man took those shots to the can, he fired exactly six bullets, the maximum amount for gun of that caliber. They don't get those small details right in most cases." That's all true, no doubt about it. Fleischer also shows his superficial fascination with the glamor of the forties and for excessive use of childish violence to as a narrative device. Interested?