This past weekend, I finally got to see a movie that I’d been interested in seeing since last summer. Gangster Squad was supposed to come out in early September, but was pushed back until January because of the Aurora, Colorado Dark Knight Rises theatre shooting. All the trailers depicted a scene wherein some rough and tumble hoods blast through a movie screen with their tommy guns aimed at an unsuspecting audience. Needless to say, at the time it might have hit a bit too close to home.
It took them a few months to chop that scene out and replace it with something else, and they did a pretty good job. Whatever they replaced it with was so seamless that it didn’t feel like anything was missing. That being said, I’m looking forward to the DVD release just for that deleted scene. The movie as a whole was a lot of fun, but not without its flaws. I would certainly not recommend that you run out and see it right now, but I could see it becoming a very re-watchable movie-of-the-week TV staple.
It stars Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, and Sean Penn. Brolin has to assemble a ragtag team of cops to take down mob boss Penn who has corrupted the whole city. Now, it may sound like you’ve already seen this, and, most likely, you have in some form or other. But, it takes a lot of familiar story clichés and does them very well. It’s hard not to root for the good guys as they blunder through the movie like a bull in a china shop.
There’s pithy one-liners, bromances galore, and Nick Nolte sounding like someone fired two barrels of buckshot down his throat. The stuff that gets in the way of this being a really good watch are a bit more subtle. For instance, Emma Stone is in it as a femme fatale. I’m sure you’ve noticed her on all the posters and in all the trailers. But, she doesn’t play that much of a role in it. It’s like they needed her for the ending that they wanted, and so they shoehorned her into the rest of the film. She doesn’t even get to do any of the stuff that she’s become known for, like be a goofy everywoman. Or, you know, act at all. She pretty much just swoons for Ryan Gosling from beginning to end, and does whatever he tells her.
Another problem with it is its use of police brutality. It’s presented as the way that good cops operate. Anyone who doesn’t beat the crap out of a perp is on the bad guy’s payroll. Giovanni Ribisi’s character expresses some concern about this, but when he does he’s essentially given a pat on the head and told to sit this one out. Maybe I’m just too PC, or I’m reading too much into this, but I don’t think police should use violence except as a last resort.
That sort of glorification of bad behaviour continues to the gunplay in the movie. Again, maybe I’m sensitive. Maybe it’s just the recent spate of gun violence that’s been on the news. Maybe in a couple of years I’ll watch this again and not notice it at all. But, in this instance, the constant gun battles took me out of the movie a bit. None of the characters seem to care about getting shot, or hitting innocent bystanders, and they just blast away at each other. Towards the end, the filmmakers even employ slow motion to make the gun violence even “cooler”.
All right, so, to sum up: Fun movie – especially if you turn your brain off.
Graham Becksted also thinks Nick Nolte sounds like a boulder being strangled, a cigar’s dying words, and/or a haunted subwoofer. He is also the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 71st follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.