As a fan of crime movies, it was a given that I would catch Gangster Squad. Unfortunately, it is no Godfather. It’s not even an Ocean’s Eleven. Perhaps a better comparison would be to professional wrestling. Like WWE Raw, Gangster Squad is not unfun, but it’s fun in so primal a way that I’d be out of my mind if I called it a classic. It’s not even good.
Like many of these kinds of movies, Gangster Squad is set in the mid-20th century. It shows us how police officer Josh Brolin created and lead the Gangster Squad, a group of technically independent but unofficially police-sanctioned team of mob busters. Their target is, of course, the local kingpin: Mickey Cohen.
That’s a pretty basic plot. How is it executed? Basically like any number of other blue-collar-hero-makes-good stories — no better, no worse. There’s even a worrying wife for good measure.
While the plot is lacking, the acting is actually OK. Josh Brolin makes a decent hero, and his uncomfortable dual role of crimefighter and father is handled well. Ryan Gosling is an actor best known for playing characters aimed at younger viewers. Now grown up, he plays the younger, secondary member of the Gangster Squad, Jerry Wooters. Gosling does a good job as the young energetic foil to the grizzled John O’Mara. Still, no one should be surprised that Gosling is playing a grown man. Yes, sixteen years ago, he played an adolescent Hercules. Who would doubt that after all that time, he’d be well into adulthood?
I have much less good to say about the dialogue. It’s not bad or anything, just unmemorable. All we really have is generic cop/gangster dialogue.
Action is important in crime thrillers. Unfortunately it’s not up to snuff in this movie I was a bit surprised to discover that this movie is rated R. There are explosions, hitting and shooting; nothing that really signifies an epic struggle. Even the final battle between John and Mickey is rather lame.
At least we do get a peek into the lives of cops and the danger of living in a town that the mob runs. There is one fantastic line that helped this movie a lot on its own for me: “You lose everything and you win the war, you’re a hero. You lose everything and you lose the war, you’re just a fool.” Also, there’s great use of a reluctant, self-risking witness and an ending that prevents public faith in law enforcement from being lost by letting Chief Parker, not the Gangster Squad, take the credit for Mickey’s fall. Of course, the former is a frequent concept and the latter’s got the epilogue of the Dark Knight peeking over it’s shoulder. What can I say? This isn’t an original movie.
With all the negativity in this review, you might be expecting a rating of 3. That brings me back to the wrestling analogy. I understand why Gangster Squad is so low-rated (32%) at Rotten Tomatoes. Objectively, it’s easy to find fault with it. But on a basic level, it can be enjoyed. Just not loved.
Overall: 6 out of 10