Gangster Squad - Trailer
A chronicle of the LAPD's fight to keep East Coast Mafia types out of Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s, starring Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin and Emma Stone.PT2M29S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2c6ci 620 349 January 3, 2013
(MA, 113 minutes.)
The story of a war on crime in 1949 Los Angeles, Gangster Squad is a period piece in which no expense has been spared on the set dressing and production design, yet the plot is ludicrous and the performances inconsequential. It's as if the endless vintage cars and custom suits are meant to add gravitas - or at least camouflage - to Ruben Fleischer's busy, banal movie.
The story is familiar, whether from the history told by crime flicks such as Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential or the putting-a-team-together dynamic of Brian De Palma's remake of The Untouchables. Chicago old boy Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) rules the Los Angeles underworld, killing his rivals and corrupting the establishment. The only way to dispatch him is covertly: ''Wage guerilla war,'' LAPD chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte) tells his nominee, Sergeant John O'Mara (Josh Brolin).
The best element in Will Beall's screenplay is the idea that O'Mara and his team are World War II veterans who feel betrayed that they fought for freedom and came home to find a despot. But beyond brief conversations, the theme is never illuminated and the attention soon swings to shootouts and car chases, interspersed with Cohen proving he was the first gangster in LA to get mediaeval on everyone's ass. For the record, Cohen went down for income tax evasion, but Gangster Squad doesn't need to be historically accurate. It should, however, give you some sense of the time and place, and a better indication of the characters' lives.
As O'Mara's laconic offsider, Sergeant Jerry Wooters, Ryan Gosling just offers diffident cockiness and a higher-pitched voice. He plays a game because he knows that's what the picture is. Emma Stone, as Cohen's mistress and Jerry's secret girlfriend, Grace Faraday, has Lauren Bacall's flipped-over hair and a smidgin of her provocative defiance; Jerry wonders what her angle is, but the film doesn't provide one. You never get a sense of Grace's intimacy with either lover, nor is Penn's fury given a chance to simmer before boiling over.
Fleischer's first feature, 2009's Zombieland, sent up the zombie genre while celebrating it, but Gangster Squad squarely gives you slow-motion gunplay and exploding cars framing the characters as they nonchalantly walk away. He's not the first filmmaker to be overwhelmed, but Fleischer's overblown skimming could be the most expensive student film ever made.