Movie Review - Gangster Squad (**1/2)

Movie Review - Gangster Squad (**1/2)

GANGSTER SQUAD

Genre: Action

Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hour 50 mins.

Premise: In 1940s Los Angeles, a secret squad of police officers come together to take down big-time gangster, Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), who runs the city.

Behind-the-Scenes: Warner Bros. originally offered the film to Ben Affleck to direct, but he quickly turned it down.  Zombieland's Ruben Fleischer took over directing duties.  Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone enjoyed working with each other so much on Crazy Stupid Love that they decided to reteam for this.  Was originally supposed to come out last September but reshoots were required after the theater shootings in Aurora.

The Good: The 1940s production design is lovingly detailed.  The cars, the costumes, and the storefronts all look amazing.  The cast is solid, starting at the top with Gosling and Josh Brolin, and continuing on to smaller, supporting characters played by Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena, and Mireille Enos.  Brolin is particularly good here - the guy has such a timeless look that he fits the period setting like a glove.  Gosling is always fun to watch - he's one of my favorite actors working today.  The movie is surprisingly funny at times (or at least smirk-worthy), and nothing is taken too seriously.

The Bad:  The shifts in tone from comedy to violent thriller can cause whiplash.  It soon becomes clear that Fleischer and screenwriter Will Beall don't really know what kind of movie they want to make.  Stone's damsel doesn't have much to do, and her scenes opposite Gosling (of which there are too few) lack the wit and chemistry they shared in Crazy Stupid Love.  Penn occupies a weird middle ground as Cohen - the character is wildly over-the-top but Penn never really looks like he's having fun playing him.  Compare that to, say, another heavily made-up villain: Al Pacino in Dick Tracy.  That's the kind of crazy performance this movie could have used.  The story runs out of gas midway through, and there is nothing here that you've haven't seen in countless other gangster movies.  And done better.

Should You See It?:  No, but may be worth a rental if you're a fan of any of the actors in it.

Rating: **1/2 out of 5 stars.

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