Review: GANGSTER SQUAD (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Review: GANGSTER SQUAD (2013)

Alright, this is the Handsome Squad.. I mean, Gangster Squad!
GANGSTER SQUAD has the hallmark of a classic 1940s period gangster drama, but the movie is nothing more than a hollow genre exercise.

The next Brian De Palma's THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987)? Well, it seems that ZOMBIELAND director Ruben Fleischer is trying to ape that modern gangster classic. From the outlook, GANGSTER SQUAD looks promising enough. It boosts with a fine cast (e.g. Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Sean Penn), slick art direction and costume design, and plenty of exciting gunfights. However, the movie is strangely uninvolving and everything in GANGSTER SQUAD is just a glossy surface with no depth.


Set in 1949, Los Angeles is reeked with high crime rate especially with former boxer-turned-gangster tycoon Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) wants to play God as he builds an empire. Nobody else, not even the LAPD dare to go near him or make an arrest of any kind. Except of course, for Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin), a no-nonsense LAPD cop who stops at nothing to wipe out as much bad guys as he can. One day he is enlisted for help by LAPD Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) in a top-secret assignment where O'Mara is required to put together a squad of police officers to wage an all-out war against Mickey and his associates once and for all. So O'Mara begins to look around and assembles his own team, which includes his partner Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), Officer Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie), fast shooter Officer Max Kennard (Robert Patrick) and Kennard's tough sidekick Officer Navidad Ramirez (Michael Pena), and brainy wireman Officer Conwell Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi). Together they set out for their first job, and their ongoing operation is successful. Meanwhile, Wooters is starting an affair with Cohen's seductive red-haired siren Grace Faraday (Emma Stone).

Technically speaking, GANGSTER SQUAD is impressive enough to look at. Most of the cast are spot-on (e.g. Josh Brolin's perfectly typecast performance as a sturdy Sgt. John O'Mara and Ryan Gosling's smooth-talking performance as the suave Sgt. Jerry Wooters), while the action scenes have its fair share of guilty-pleasure moments (with a generous amount of stylized slow motion).

If anything, the climactic finale where Sgt John O'Mara and his squad members goes all out in a gunfight scene against Mickey Cohen and his gang inside the headquarters.

Will Beall's script is empty-headed and enormously lack of distinctive flair that made THE UNTOUCHABLES such a genre classic. Ruben Fleischer's direction is average at best, while Sean Penn's supposedly great performance as the notorious Mickey Cohen ends up more like an over-the-top cartoon character. As a so-called seductive siren, Emma Stone looks superficial to pull off that kind of role. Some of the action scenes are ruined by the over-reliance of CGI, which frankly, robbed most of its kinetic excitement.


What?! What?! Stop calling me Al Pacino or Robert De Niro impersonator!

It's a waste that Ruben Fleischer botches his premise in what could have been a great gangster classic for the new generation. Instead, GANGSTER SQUAD is all style and no substance.

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