Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Gangster Squad, dir. Ruben Fleischer, scr. Will Beall, based on "Tales from the Gangster Squad" by Paul Lieberman, st. Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Peña, Robert Patrick

Watching Gangster Squad reminded me of the first time Napster came on the scene; all the music you could ever want, for free! Where to start?! I felt like how I imagine the hosts of The Gadget Show might feel in Foxconn. Watching as talent after talent was introduced produced that same feeling of giddy intoxication. OK, so Penn's Mickey Cohen was more De Niro Capone than I had expected but by my estimation, a lighter prohibition-era gangster film in the same vein as The Untouchables was long overdue. Then, that familiar feeling again. Too much of a good thing's a bad thing indeed. Fleischer seems unable to orientate his film in a particular tone or style, a fact made worse by the bloated amount of talent on display. Think about how much you notice when an actor is adrift in an underwritten role. Now apply that to a whole cast. For the most part, the authenticity of period is intact and dynamic, but the film suffers from a dreadful script (that includes a creakingly awful voiceover), prosaic plotting, and the kind of boxing-and-coxing of familiar meet-the-team-and-their-special-skills tropes that annoy and distress. By the by, one day Emma Stone will make a period film and she'll be transcendent instead of her beautiful modern self; this is not it.