Starring: Josh Brolin (True Grit), Ryan Gosling (Drive), Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man), Sean Penn (Milk)

Director: Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland)

Writer: Will Beall

Runtime: 1 hour 57 minutes

Release Date: 10 January (UK), 11 January (US)

2013 kicks off with a film that should have come out last year. After a long delay due to the tragic events in Aurora last July, Gangster Squad finally hits theatres. Is it the crime classic some hoped it would be, or will it end up sleeping with the fishes?


Gangster Squad suffers an unfortunate ailment: being inconsistent. It’s inconsistent in tone, it’s inconsistent in pace and, most unfortunately, inconsistent in quality. The film is all over the place at the start, switching between serious and comedic on the flip of a coin. The film keeps stopping and starting, not letting the action scenes play out properly. However, the film picks up about halfway through and starts to become enjoyable with some fun action scenes and witty banter, capped off by a great shootout in and around a hotel. The film ends better than it starts, but it never truly makes up for that rocky beginning. And for those still wondering, the whole set piece inside the movie theatre is gone (rightfully so).

The main problem I find with Gangster Squad comes from its characters, but not its cast. Everyone in the movie does as good as they can with the parts given to them, but none of the roles are given much meat on the page beyond the most cardboard of cut-outs. The Gangster Squad themselves are made up of the kind of team stereotypes you always see in these types of movies: the suave ladies’ man, the wildcard gunslinger, the nerdy tech guy, so on and so forth. I guess this could be a reference to the classic crime films of old, but they could have kept these character outlines and expanded upon them instead of just presenting them as they are. The only characters that really get any kind of development are Brolin, Gosling and Stone, and even then they go through the motions you expect. Sean Penn is clearly having fun hamming it up as Mickey Cohen, and it is enjoyable to watch him flip out in a bloody rage, but is still often falls into OTT territory. As I said before, my problem isn’t with the actors (Brolin, Nick Nolte and Robert Patrick are great in their roles), but the writer should have put a lot more effort into fleshing them out.

Gangster Squad is a visually interesting movie. The film recreates 1940’s Los Angeles in an exaggerated fashion, which generally suits the tone of the film. The cinematography is often inventive and the action scenes fun, but then the music is sometimes overly bombastic for no good reason and the editing often gets choppy. The film occasionally feels like a Zack Snyder film, which isn’t necessarily bad but I wish Fleischer could have come up with his own visual flair.

In the end, Gangster Squad’s good qualities manages to outweigh the bad. The film can be a lot of fun once it gets itself in order, and isn’t anywhere near as bad as some critics are making it out to be. But the film’s blemishes are too noticeable to ignore, damaging a film that, with much more effort put into the script, could have become The Untouchables of this generation.


Author: Jennifer Heaton

Aspiring screenwriter, film critic, pop culture fanatic and perpetual dreamer.

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