Itís no secret I have been looking forward to Gangster Squad for some time. It boasts a fantastic cast, with one of my favorite actors (Gosling) and actresses (Stone), while Iím a huge sucker for period gangster-noir films. L.A. Confidential and Chinatown are two of my all-time faves, and I was hoping Gangster Squad could be this decadeís updated version. But when the reviews began trickling in, they were less than kind, to say the least, and frankly I donít quite understand why all the hate.
Yes, itís derivate of several much greater films and unoriginal, but the same can be said for a good chunk of what Hollywood churns out these days. Plus, donít forget back in the 30s there was a new gangster flick released literally every week, so originality isnít exactly this genreís forte. Gangster Squad has other issues as well. The bookend narration is terrible, the closing action set piece laughably nonsensical, itís overly stylized and uses too much slowmo, and the script that was buzzed about for years is light on character depth and very pulpy. In hindsight, it makes sense why so many A-list directors passed it over before Ruben Fleisher, who has now used up most of the goodwill generated from his Zombieland debut, landed the gig.
Still, for all its faults, Gangster Squad remains a capable piece of entertainment. Fleisher did his best contribution by landing a near dream-list cast, and even though itís far from their best stuff, it keeps things respectable and never dull. Even though, as previously mentioned, the story is entirely all too familiar, the majority of key ingredients are included and the marks hit at least somewhat accurately. It will never be mistaken for a classic, but for fans of the genre, itís hard not to walk away at least halfway satisfied.