Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Director Rueben Fleisher's 'Gangster Squad', in a word, is cartoonish.  It's a big old live action cartoon.  It's that pretty girl you've been waiting to date for a while, because this movie is long delayed for a number of reasons, and now that you are finally out with her it becomes painfully clear that she's dumb as dirt.  About as bright as a bag of rocks.  But does that mean you cannot have fun with this stupid pretty girl?  Of course it doesn't.

Los Angeles 1949.  Hardcore cop Sgt. John O'Meara (Josh Brolin) sees some pretty thing picked up by a pimp pretending to be talent agent, and he's gonna rescue her.  Sgt. O'Meara's plan?  Walk in, shoot everybody, and anybody he doesn't shoot… just beat them near to death.  Get used to Sgt. O'Meara's planning techniques because they will not improve as this movie goes on.

Problem is that this operation belongs to mobster Mickey Cohen, as played by Sean Penn who I think was channeling Prune Face from those Dick Tracy cartoons for his performance.  Mickey is not a nice person.  Just ask that guy he ripped in two on the hill or those schlubs who allowed O'Meara to beat them half to death.  And while this little setback didn't make Mickey happy, it's just a blip on his path to control the entire criminal operations of the west coast.

Well, we can't very well allow that, now can we?  Thus The Chief (Nick Nolte) has slated O'Meara, with the help of his pregnant wife (Mireille Enos)… it's complicated… to put together a squad of gangster busters who answer to no one and take no prisoners.  This multi-ethnic group of 1949 gangster busters consists of Coleman the black Dude (Anthony Mackie), Ramirez the Mexican dude (Anthony Pena), Max the Old dude (Robert Patrick) and
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Conway the Smart dude (Giovanni Ribisi).  Conway is the one with the wife and kids.  Yes, we know that O'Meara has a pregnant wife as well, but who seriously thinks Josh Brolin is gonna die in this movie?  There is one more potential Gangster Buster in Jerry the Pretty Boy (Ryan Gosling), but he's not interested, until Cohen makes him interested.  Partly because he's kicking it with Cohen's moll Grace (Emma Stone).

With the team assembled, it's time to do some gangster busting.  At first our heroes kind of suck at this, until they get better at this.  By basically doing the same thing.  I gotta tell you, if I was a gangster I don't think I'd have too much trouble putting these idiots down.  Naturally Cohen isn't happy about these clowns disrupting his operations and he takes steps.  Not all of our gangster busters are gonna make it, I'm not telling you who, but just know that even though Mickey Cohen has this entire city on lockdown and owns everybody and everything, five cops with guns and no discernible plan that I can tell, will make it happen in their favor. 

I know the point when I basically gave up on 'Gangster Squad' as a legitimate crime movie.  So you're a gangster and a bunch hoods with tommy guns open fire on you and your wife.  Their goal is to kill you.  They fail at this.  Knowing this information, what's your next move?  If you said 'go home and go to bed with no protection except for the maid so these gangsters can have a much easier path to killing you'… then you win the prize.  It was so easy it makes me wonder why these hoods opened fire in the street in the first place when all they had to do was knock on his front door.  The whole movie is kind of stupid like that.  Everything the squad is doing is secret, nobody knows they exist, except when something goes wrong now everybody knows they exist, except when everything happens like you know it is, now nobody knows they exist anymore.  Then we had to deal with O'Meara's awful strategy for taking down Cohen, which basically consisted of standing in the open shooting at dudes or running cars off of roads, with the worst part being that this terrible plan actually worked. 

But I do believe if you go into this stupid ass movie knowing it's a stupid ass movie, and man… it's going to be apparent real quick that is one stupid ass movie, like the minute Sean Penn opens his mouth… then one can kind of enjoy this stupid ass movie.  I know I did.  Kind of.  In a way. 

Sure I was hoping for the whole Brian De Palma 'Untouchables' vibe, with the only thing Team Fleischer was able to pull off were the real nice suits in relationship to that movie, but once you know you're not getting that and you realize that instead we are watching a super violent version of a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon, 'Gangster Squad' is kind of fun.

For instance, Coleman the Black dude is like a ninja.  He can throw a blade with dead-eye accuracy from a good 100 yards away.  That's something only a ninja can do and ninjas in period gangster flicks are fun.  Watching Emma Stone, who looks like she's sixteen in this movie, vamp it up was also fun.  The final salvo, which consisted of stupid gangsters standing out in the open sucking up bullets, while shooting like storm troopers was borderline awesome.  And of course there's challenge of figuring out which our gang busters won't make it.  I got it right. 

All I'm saying is that while 'Gang Squad' isn't what I would call a classically good movie, and it is kind of a terrible gangster movie, it is slick, action filled, and violent, which does add up to entertainment value.  
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