For a movie that looks to promise lots of action, double crossing and gun-shooting, I left the movie feeling rather unsatisfied. Don’t get me wrong, Fleisher has caught LA in the 1940′s very well and the fact that it is based on the true story of Mickey Cohans rise and fall as one of THE most vicious mobsters of his time (look here for more info), the movie comes across as all razz but no matazz.
I think what didn’t help was the fact that I have played the excellent video game L.A. Noir which covers the same story. True, it has the luxury of plenty of time to build the story and since you are the main character, you build some sort of emotional attachment to him. Yet, this film didn’t seem to fully embrace what it was to be a mobster.
Also I’m a HUGE fan of the TV show Boardwalk Empire, which is set a good twenty years prior to this and about Atlantic city. Again the makers of the TV show have that same luxury, but mobster movies used to be big business. You had the femme fatal, the mobster who wants to run the town with an iron fist and the cop with a concience who won’t be bought. Gangster Squad has these things, but they all appear to be very watered down versions of what we think when we imagine this time period.
For a film that has two Oscar winners, one Oscar nominee and one Golden Globe nominee, the calibre of talent should mean a fantastic film. However, not one of these actors (Brolin, Penn, Gossling and Stone respectively) are given a character to really showcase their talents.
At times, there are a few instances where you can see the really unhinged power hungry mad-man itching to get out. This is partly due to Penn’s performance as Cohan. Yet, as soon as we see little snippets of what could have been a formidable foe, it’s is instantly shot down.
As for Brolins character Sgt John O’Mara, the attempts to make him appear to be an ex-soldier struggling to adjust to civilian life just don’t really come across that well. For being the hero of the piece, I found myself not really rooting for his success. He comes across as much of a thug as Cohan even one of the other characters in the film comments so.
In order to make him appear more human, we are shown some of his home life. Rather than endearing me more to Brolins character, I couldn’t help but think how un-realistic this whole set up needed to be. After being against him from going up against Cohan, O’Mara’s wife does a 180 and ends up helping him select his team. I am all for the supporting wife but it just jarred and seemed to be added in order to introduces us to the rest of O’Mara’s team. (Sorry to really put a damper on things, but I prefer the Muppets token montage on this.)
In an effort to “sex” things up, we have Ryan Gossling and Emma Stone. Now I have seen them in Crazy Stupid Love and I thought they had a chemistry that was amazing. With these characters, it’s hard to believe it’s the same actors.
For me, most of these faux pas are down to a poor script and little understanding of the source material. Cliche after cliche are thrown into this movie to the point that I was left rolling my eyes so much I gave myself a headache. When the pace begins to slow or there appears to be no where for the plot to progress, a gunfight is thrown in for good measure.
I think the one that sticks out the most for me was the way in which Ryan Gosslings character is convinced to join the team. He had originally declined to join, instead happy to live his life, drinking screwing and generally keeping his head down. That is until that fateful night he is the witness to the murder of the cheeky, impish shoeshine boy who is constantly harassing him oustide the club. Only then does he seek revenge. *yawn* I knew this was coming as soon as the scene opened. The slow panning of the car. The cuts between Cohans adversary, the black car crusing down the street and the shoeshiner all pointed to his imminent death. I did scoff at the predictability of it all.
The only real enjoyment in this movie was Robert Patrick, who played a washed up cowboy, recruited for his famous gun-totting skills. Whether he knew not to take this seriously or was just enjoying hamming up the screen, but for me he made the film so much more enjoyable.
Overall, I thought this film looked the part, but lacked any real punch to make it stand out from the crowd.
Side note:- I have since found out that this film had to undergo reshoots due to the incident in America where a gunman shot and killed a number of cinema patrons. The original film had a very similar scene, yet I don’t think these reshoots are a factor on how poor the film was.