GANGSTER SQUAD, Ruben Fleischer’s follow up from his comedy hit ZOMBIELAND, comes at you in one of the slickest film packages of recent times. When it comes to shooting a movie in a city that I love (oh yeah L.A. I dig ya big time) Fleischer, along with cinematographer Dion Beebe, have really fashioned a 1940’s L.A. as you’d expect it to be. The film looks fantastic from the production design to the costuming GANGSTER SQUAD is one sexy bitch of a flick.
… Then you’ve got that cast: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena and Nick Nolte. It reads like it should be L.A. CONFIDENTIAL 2. It’s one very handsome array of talent and they’re dressed to suit the scene.
Taking on the tale of the squad that brought down Mickey Cohen – GANGSTER SQUAD opens with a ‘BASED ON A TRUE STORY’ – so as you know Lowdowners that’s your get out of jail free card to take historical license on the story and soup it up to make it a thrilling action bonanza.
But the real angle of GANGSTER SQUAD is not character building … This is an action movie, it doesn’t get bogged down in convoluting its plot, rather it jumps from set piece to set piece as this crack team of undercover cops work to bring down Mickey Cohen’s L.A. Empire.
You get perfunctory introductions to all the characters but you never spend any real time with them bar Brolin’s Sarge O’Mara and Gosling’s Jerry . Emma Stone’s Grace is nicely drawn out as the vixen and Merielle Enos deserves a mention as O’Mara’s wife Connie. As for Pena (Ramirez), Mackie (Harris), Ribisi (Keeler) and Patrick (Kennard) well they are more just sidekicks than anything.
Sean Penn’s Mickey Cohen echoes Al Pacino’s Big Boy Caprice from Dick Tracy and he’s having fun here under the prosthetics. He’s indeed the most intriguing and engaging of all the characters on show here. Though we only see the one side of Cohen – the ruthless Ganglord – Penn revels in the role.
But we’re here for action and shoot em ups and violence and shit hot suits. And you get em in pretty quick fashion. From the opening scene to the end GANGSTER SQUAD is loaded with violence – there’s plenty of shoot em ups, rifle butts to the face, some guy gets torn in half, things get shot up a lot and there’s a really impressive car chase sequence with lots of explosions. That’s the trump card of GANGSTER SQUAD – it’s an action movie with a hot youngish cast and a tale to tell.
How close to the truth it is I don’t know at this moment – but it has inspired me to go and have a dig. I must admit I was expecting more of a L.A. CONFIDENTIAL / THE UNTOUCHABLES experience whereas this plays more to the 1991 flick MOBSTERS (See below for the trailer) crowd. For me I just wanted a bit more meat on the bones. There’s an incredible story here but I couldn’t hear it amidst the warfare.
It’s wide, it’s accessible and it’s pretty to look at even when all guns are blazing.
GANGSTER SQUAD opened JANUARY 10, 2013 in AUSTRALIA through ROADSHOW FILMS