Director: Ruben Fleischer
Screenplay: Will Beall
Starring: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Sean Penn, Micheal Pena, Antony Mackie
Synopsis is here
I found myself amused by a tweet that came my way, which statedthat the problem with modern movies is that film directors have stopped lookinglike film directors and the likes of Ruben Fleischer and Tom Hooper look morelike depressed estate agents than filmmakers. I'm tickled by the idea thatcreativity stems a little from unkempt, unshaven beards and lucky red caps.That such scruffiness of appearance equals a creative freedom ofsorts.
As amused as Iwas, by the idea I did retort back to the gentleman, that it's not that theydon't look that the part, it's more that they don't look AT other directorswith any real depth. As presumptuous as I've just been, it's hard for me tolook at a film like Gangster Squad and not feel that way. The film gives us along tracking shot of Slappy's bar starting from the outside and entering. Weare shown a singing act right at the end. What is the reason behind this shot?It's clear that the shot a riff on Goodfellas and yet itdoesn't realise why Scorsese takes us all the way through theCopacabana with Henry Hill. So while in Goodfellas we are being taken into thedepths and pleasures of Hill's world, in Gangster Squad, you feel that the shotis there because a long tracking shot has been done in a period gangster movie.And so we get nothing from the moment other than what it is, a complicated yetempty sequence.
To many, I'm suresuch trivial matters won't matter to them. It certainly didn't bothermy girlfriend one iota. As she happily invested time to sit and watch RyanGosling and Emma Stone copulate in a movie again. I however, was far toofrustrated at Gangster Squad's stale execution, uneven tonal shifts andits pale imitation to better gangster films. The rich detail that isplaced within the likes of L.A Confidential and The Untouchables is missinghere as Ruben Fleischer flaps and flails to get a strong grasp atthe material. If the film feels like it's taking itself too seriously(which it does often), it will slip awkwardly into board comedy. Characterswill be introduced, but little will be done with them afterwards. The lukewarmrelationship between Stone's Gangster Moll and Ryan Gosling's police sergeantis hardly scintillating, let alone smoldering, with the relationship jumpingahead without us actually witnessing any actual affinitybetween the two. Every aspect of the film seems paper thin, and more interestedin slow mo than anything else. The whole affair is slick for slicks sake, alltalk with no weight behind it.
The acting isequally as uneven as the tone of the film. Brolin's straight man seems moreboard than stoic. Gosling appears out of his depth, hamming up his display witha cornball accent, but lacking the nobility that the likes of Costneror Crowe had in other films. Goslings performance I had the most difficultlywith, as I was unsure whether or not it was his chops or thescript/direction that were the pinpoint of his weakness. Also dripped inhoney glaze is the cartoonish display by Sean Penn who feels like he's in acompletely different film. Many have likened his performance to Al Pacino's inDick Tracy, which would be fine if Gangster Squad knew what it would be aimingfor. Unfortunately everyone else is playing cops and robbers for real. The lesssaid about Stone, Mackie, Pena and Patrick the better, they are give no time orcharacter development to make any real impact.
Real critics havealready made Gangster Squad January's cinematic whipping boy, attacking it withfar more gusto than I have here. Will this be the worst film of this upcomingyear? I doubt it very much, as 2013 is very young. However it'sunderstandable how Gangster Squad's mimicking of better movies (the film liftsa lot of its structure off The Untouchables) could get someone’s back up. Thefilm's shallowness shines brightly though the clichés and holes of itsgeneric screenplay and no one does well enough to cover the weakness.Fleischer, who made a splash with the very amusing Zombieland, unfortunatelydisplays limitations, in his first semi serious piece. Hopefully thisis a mere blip on his CV.