February 1, 2013
As you can surmise with their classy-looking poster, this was one very stylish, glossy gangster movie. With such as stellar cast that it had, you are bound to expect a lot out of it. This may be why many people were disappointed by it. The great potential was there, but this movie never really rises to the level of other classic gangster films which obviously influence it.
The film was set in the late 1940s, when gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) ruled the Los Angeles underworld. The chief of police (Nick Nolte) secretly assigns good cop Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) to assemble a team of dedicated cops who would combat the Cohen gang vigilante-style.
When you watch "Gangster Squad," you will notice that it is like a patchwork of scenes "inspired" by its predecessors. Off the bat, you will recognize films like "LA Confidential," "The Untouchables," "Dick Tracy," and "The Dark Knight." This film lies somewhere between the serious intentions of the first two, and the cartoonish nature of the latter two.
The production design was excellent in re-creating 40s LA with its Hollywood glam and its seedy underbelly. The photography was slick with its bright palette of colors and lighting effects. The camera angles and blocking were purposeful to make the members of the "Gangster Squad" look extra "cool" when they walk away together or shoot guns together.
Instead of taking matters very seriously, the execution of the film by Fleischer was more tongue-in-cheek. The main antagonist, Cohen, was portrayed by Sean Penn in a most exaggeratedly over-the-top manner -- a caricature of a mad and violent mob boss. Penn was made to say the darnedest things like "You know the drill?" and there was an actual drill there, or "Here comes Santy Clause!" in a hotel lobby Christmas shootout, while sounding like the bad guy in "Home Alone".
I did like the members of the Gangster Squad though. Josh Brolin was again the deadly serious cop much like his Tommy Lee Jones persona in MiB3. He does better in scenes with his wife Connie (Mireille Enos). Ryan Gosling also fit the bill as the debonair lover-boy of the squad, as he becomes involved with the requisite beautiful damsel-in-distress Grace (Emma Stone). X-Philes like me welcome the appearance of former "X-Files" cast members Robert Patrick and Giovanni Ribisi in memorable supporting roles as key members of O'Mara's Squad.
All I can say is, contain your high expectations, and you will enjoy this film. The genuine classic Hollywood atmosphere and the high-octane hand gun, shot gun and machine gun action are all there! It is a shallow, cheesy film so do not expect deep pathos and emotion. It does not take itself too seriously, so you are not expected to as well. Enjoy it as you see it. It won't have any deeper meanings to it.