Ruben Fleischer, director of “Zombieland,” “30 Minutes or Less” and now “Gangster Squad,” is facing some less-than-stellar early reviews for his would-be-noir thriller about the LAPD vs. gangster Mickey Cohen in 1940s Los Angeles, based on Paul Lieberman’s book of the same name. Turns out it reads more like a stock standard actioneer with plenty of violence, slick one-liners and one-dimensional characters. With the ensemble cast of Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Mireille Enos, Michael Pena, Giovanni Ribisi and Nick Nolte, we had hoped for more.
Reshoots were required after the July 2012 movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado. An early trailer for “Gangster Squad” also featured a sensationalized shooting scene in a theater. “Gangster Squad” arrives January 11.
THR: “Unfortunately, all the characters are hardly more dimensional than caricatures, identifiable by one main trait and barely individualized beyond that,..Ultimately, Gangster Squad is all about instant gratification, almost as much for the characters as for the viewer. The film pays corny lip service to the idea that, by using thuggish, extra-legal tactics, the off-the-grid cops are lowering themselves to the same level as the gangsters they’re pursuing. No lines of dialogue here ring less true than these, as everything else bout the film so fully endorses their Wild West methods.”
ThePlaylist: “Impulsive and steely-faced, Brolin comes off the best here, perhaps because he has the least amount of dialogue in screenwriter Will Beall’s fiercely staid script. It’s unclear whether Fleischer was going for homage or caricature, but paired with the lingo-heavy dialogue and scattered tonal consistency, he lets down both his narrative and his trusting actors in making their characters more than cops-and-robbers affectations. It is no coincidence that Gosling and Stone are matched here yet again; their ‘Crazy Stupid Love’ chemistry is on full recall in their heated affair, but so is a playfully self-referential tone that leaves them nearly rolling their eyes at the pulpy material.”
TotalFilm: “On the surface at least, there’s much to admire, from the classy cast, immaculate production and costume design to a script that stings with salty one-liners,..amid the bullet blizzards, it’s hard to feel much for any of the characters; there are times when the gangster-grotesques in Warren Beatty’s comic-book mob movie Dick Tracy feel more three-dimensional,..Only a grizzled Brolin really packs a punch – in all senses.”
Variety: “It’s here that a fascinating true-crime foundation gives way to fantasy; there are moments in ‘Gangster Squad’ where Fleischer is so far out on a limb, it makes ‘Dick Tracy’ look like a documentary. But it’s all in the spirit of classic B-movie fun, and however over-the-top the action gets (a shootout in the lobby of the Park Plaza Hotel is a veritable orgy of bullet casings, blazing muzzles and flying shrapnel), every creative decision seems to be in service of telling the most entertaining possible story, backed by first-rate wardrobe and art contributions, and underscored by Steve Jablonsky’s might-makes-right music,..Despite its striking use of authentic L.A. locations, from Union Station to the Hollywoodland sign (the year of its abbreviation), this highly stylized retelling plays as artificially as a stagebound musical, owing, in part, to ‘Chicago’ d.p. Dion Beebe’s deeply shadowed, nearly all-nocturnal lensing.”