MOVIE REVIEW: Gangster Squad


Film: Gangster Squad
Director: Ruben Fleischer

It has been a long time since a great gangster movie has been made. It has easily been a decade since a movie about organized crime after WWII has been noteworthy, and really over two decades since the classics like Goodfellas or Casino were released. Sure, there have been some more modern gangster movies within the last few years, but watching The Departed really just makes you yearn for the movies set in the 40’s when men were men and snitches got mowed down by tommy guns. The new movie Gangster Squad comes out today, and the trailers would have you believe that a return to the gangster movies of yesteryear is finally happening, but those trailers were wrong.

Gangster Squad stars Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen, who is essentially the mob boss of the west coast. He’s managed to pretty much take over all of L.A. and is setting his sights on the surrounding states, then the rest of the country. Finally fed up with all the corruption and violence is Police Sergeant John O’Mara, played by Josh Brolin, who is recruited by the last honest Chief in the L.A.P.D. to take down Cohen by any means necessary. O’Mara then recruits a team of men to be his “gangster squad” set on driving Cohen out of L.A. by destroying his entire operation.

The set up for the film is pitch perfect (and supposedly inspired by true events). A mob boss that needs to be taken down by cops that are acting outside of the law? You could not make me want to see a movie harder if you tried. On top of that is an all-star cast with plenty of A-List actors. Penn, Brolin, Gosling, and Ribisi all act exactly how you would expect actors of their caliber to act: perfectly. At no point in the film were they the problem. Unfortunately Gangster Squad suffered from one big flaw, and that was that it did not know what kind of movie it wanted to be.

The movie literally opens with a man being ripped in half. This sets up a brutal mob movie full of violence and aggression. Shortly there after, however, the movie takes a light hearted turn. The personalities and interactions of the members of the titular squad were cartoonish and cheeky, which completely undoes what the movie set itself up to be. Instead of a great mob movie in line with The Untouchables this film became a confused attempt at a cliche action flick. The biggest let down of the whole film is that it clearly had so much potential to be great, but instead just comes off as an okay movie that you would take your dad to see.

All that being said, the crowd in the theater seemed to really enjoy the movie, despite its shortcomings. Personally I would wait for this to come to home media instead of spending $10 on a ticket to see it, especially while there are so many other great movies to see right now.

Review written by: Justin Proper

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