"Gangster Squad" is a generic name, which is fitting, because "Gangster Squad" is a generic movie. It has everything you would expect from a film of that title -- fierce gun battles, a moll with a heart of gold, stylish suits, dirty cops, clean cops, confused cops, more gun battles -- and nothing else. In an era in which genre films have long become high art -- witness the Oscar nomination for "Django Unchained" -- it's hard to see why an aggressively middling film like "Gangster Squad" exists.
And with this cast attached, it could have been so much more. Josh Brolin is Sgt. John O'Mara, the angelic cop at the heart of the story. The film opens with him rescuing a damsel in distress, one of the many pretty girls who made their way to Los Angeles in the 1940s -- and still make their way there -- hoping to get into the film business. Instead, she's almost forced into a much older profession, until O'Mara steps in. It might be what any gentleman would do, but his fellow cops wouldn't -- Mickey Cohen's (Sean Penn) turf is off limits.
The cops that aren't on Cohen's payroll -- and there aren't many -- are too scared to cross him.
But police Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) is a good guy who's tired of seeing his city sink to the likes of Cohen. So he orders O'Mara to create a secret squad to wage guerilla warfare on the kingpin. O'Mara assembles a ragtag group, all of whom seem to have one skill. Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) disdains joining -- he's a cynical young lad, though an immensely charming one. Until, inevitably, the only person for whom he has any feeling is killed by Cohen's gunfire. Well, that and the fact he, also inevitably, falls in love with Mickey's girl, the beautiful redheaded Grace Faraday (Emma Stone).
|2 out of 4 stars|
|Stars: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone|
|Director: Ruben Fleischer|
|Rated: R for strong violence and language|
|Running time: 113 minutes|
I don't need to tell you more. You know what will happen, probably to every last detail. Like the other big opening this weekend, "Zero Dark Thirty," "Gangster Squad" is based on a true story. And like "Zero Dark Thirty," this "true" story has been stylized beyond belief. There isn't a gangster flick cliche that doesn't find a place here.
It's too bad because, as I said, the cast is top-rate. So much so that one hopes they were embarrassed when they finally saw the final product. I know I was.