Gangster Squad (2013)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Sufficient, but boring.

Hello, world. You know, I’m not the biggest fan of gangster movies. I typically try to avoid them because I know very well that I’m biased against them and it wouldn’t really be fair to my readers if I gave them a bad review. Then again, since the world seems to share my distaste for this one particular movie – I thought I’d go ahead and talk about Gangster Squad. After all, it’s not really about gangsters now, is it? It’s about the Gangster Squad of 1949 – totally different thing. I guess?

The plot of this film is relatively simple, thank god. It’s about Josh Brolin, who plays Sergeant John O’Mara – a police officer who lives life a bit on the edge. When his boss hires him to take down crime syndicate Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), John O’Mara must go into deep cover, with a group of other, willing officers – to infiltrate and take down the gang leader that had his hands around L.A. – and controlled basically everything. He was the Godfather of Los Angeles, basically.

I’ll tell you the main reason I didn’t like the movie, and this is probably different for everyone else – it’s noire – and it feels heavily drowned in thick, syrupy, noire tones. I’ve never personally cared for that type of movie because it simply doesn’t feel natural. Then again, there are things about how this movie feels in general that also bothers other critics. They would tell you it simply has a way about itself that feels inconsistent – as if the writers weren’t quite sure what they were going for in the writer’s room. For me, it was simply the fact that we have a noire, and that fact alone offers me little else than an overwhelming feeling of boredom.

I realize, however, that my personal opinion is a little rash and unfair, so I try to accommodate that with giving this film the respect it deserves. First and foremost, the cast in this film is quite impressive – then again, an impressive cast doesn’t make a good movie…but it does help. Second of all, the simple plot of good guys versus bad guys is great. It doesn’t try to be anything that it’s not, and even introduces some moral dilemmas that were in all honesty, smart. And then…it had some humor.

Now I personally enjoyed the comedic relief – but other critics are right – it’s not the kind of humor you’d expect from a noire film. While everything else has that noire “feel”, the comedy was really light, not dark. They threw in little jokes here and there to lighten the mood, but to me…it felt off. It wasn’t so much to tip the overall balance that the movie had for itself, but it was enough to question if it was the right thing to do from a filmmakers perspective. I think the comedy alone has made critics question what type of movie this even is, and I understand that.

The Good:

As far as gangster movies goes, this isn’t horribly bad. It’s got a clear goal with clear protagonists and antagonists. The casting in the film is quite impressive, and it does what it needed to do to work.

The Bad:

I have to say, though, I’ve never enjoyed a movie that sports a noire “feel”. That alone creates boredom, in my opinion – but it was their mixture of dark, violent noire and light, sporadic humor that felt conflicting. In order for it to be consistent, the humor they needed was dark humor – which would flow with everything else quite nicely.

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