December 3, 2013

Rabid Rewind: "Gangster Squad" starring Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling

Gangster Squad
starring Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Nick Nolte, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Michael Pena, Giovanni Ribisi, and Sean Penn
directed by Ruben Fleischer
screenplay by Will Beall
based on Tales of the Gangster Squad by Paul Lieberman
Warner Bros. (2013)

To say Gangster Squad is based on a true story is like calling Dirty Harry a documentary. Aside from a couple key characters and set pieces, this movie is pure pulp fiction.

Los Angeles is plagued by organized crime, and its kingpin Mickey Cohen is set to make his play to take over the whole of the western States. It's going to take a team of crimefighters packin' big brass balls and a truckload of ammo to take him down. Enter the Gangster Squad. If you need more of an enticement to check out this movie, you ain't getting one, because this is not a thinking man's gangster flick.

It's hard to imagine an action movie with more pitch-perfect casting, as it's hard to imagine anyone other than Josh Brolin playing the no-nonsense defender of truth and justice, Sergeant John O'Mara, or Ryan Gosling as the dashing detective with a heart of gold, Jerry Wooters. Pour Emma Stone into a slinky evening gown and have her throw out witty barbs in her deeply dulcet voice and you've got yourself a femme fatale. And then there's Sean Penn. As far as his performance goes, just imagine a feral dog with a cigar in its mouth barking out angry dialogue. The only way director Ruben Fleischer could have found a better suited actor would have been if he'd cast a rottweiler and taught it to speak.

Inside the metric ton of stylized atmosphere there's gun fights, fist fights, explosions, and expletives--oh, and a plot. Mind you, the movie has one of the most mindnumbingly predictable plots I've seen in a good long while. The minor characters doomed to inevitable and grizzly demises are so easy to spot, they may as well have tags on their toes as they enter a scene. And while I enjoy listening to Nick Nolte spew one-liners with a voice earned from years of using broken glass as bubblegum, the dialogue is practically perfunctory.

If not for the over-the-top violence, the movie would be generic and forgettable. And while I'm not some thin-skinned prude, I'd gladly trade in some of that sizzle for some more steak. A fun movie to rent or stream if you've got a couple hours to kill some night, but maybe you'd be better served looking up a true classic of the genre.

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