FREELANCE WRITER. JOURNALIST, AND SCRIPT READER – FILM AND TV RUNNER – FAN OF SCI-FI AND CHOCOLATE DIGESTIVES – YSTV'S BEST DRESSED MEMBER 2013

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Here's a funny joke I saw on Twitter (credit to @bazecraze) regarding Ruben Fleischer's new film Gangster Squad:

"I'm on the phone with the studio right now! They want to know the title! Yes, right now! Come on, think!!" "Um, uh...Gangster Squad?"

Before I saw the film, I'd have loved to believe that this was truly how it got its title. Unfortunately, I now have to believe that the screenwriter genuinely believed that Gangster Squad is a good title, for the same lack of subtlety or imagination is evident throughout the film.

The eponymous squad are a group of cops in 1940s Los Angeles, but not just any cops - these are the toughest, hardest cops in the LAPD, working beyond the boundaries of the law to tackle the corruption occupying the city. It's like a historical The Expendables, except without the central premise that these are actors well known for ridiculous over-the-top action films playing on their reputations. Rather, the film actually has some talented actors - Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Sean Penn - but wastes every single one of them with one-dimensional cardboard cutout characters. It's like they've all been assigned a characteristic - "Josh Brolin, be rugged; Ryan Gosling, be sexy; Sean Penn, be evil; token black guy, be black" - and Stone's seductress, who's got herself tied up with a mob boss and needs Ryan Gosling to save her, is one of the most annoying clich├ęs present. 

With a background in comedy (Zombieland and the reasonably enjoyable Thirty Minutes or Less), it seems director Fleischer is uncomfortable in this genre and the film is more pastiche than original story; every single gangster movie convention is there and not one is used originally. The action is flashy and expensive, but so is the action in Skyfall, and that action is not only better but backed up by an interesting story (there are many films I could name here, that came to mind because it's brilliant).

Yeah, so, I wouldn't recommend Gangster Squad. I promise to be more positive about the next film I review.

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