“Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” was the No.1 movie in America last weekend. The first time I heard Jeremy Renner shouting “Gretel!!!” in the trailer, I was like, “No. No thanks.” I already knew the film was a bad idea, but that just confirmed it.
However, the movie I saw in a theater last weekend, “Gangster Squad,” was only a slight cut above that one.
Josh Brolin plays a war vet turned cop in 1949-era Los Angeles. His beautiful city has been taken over by ruthless gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). So, when his chief (Nick Nolte) tasks him with putting together a secret squad to not make arrests, but put an end to Cohen’s activities, he attacks the quest with full force.
It ends up being Brolin’s wife (“The Killing” star Mireille Enos) who hand-picks four men (Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi and Robert Patrick) to have her husband’s back in the war that ensues. Patrick plays a real gunslinger type, too; a throwback from the Wild West. Michael Peña, an actor you know I love, plays his sidekick who tags along against the squad’s better judgment.
Other performers shine as well. Penn brings Cohen, who was a real gangster, to life. He puts everything he’s got into it, but because of the script, he ends up as a bit of a cartoon, albeit a really scary cartoon. He’s like a Dick Tracy villain.
What drew me most to the film, aside from being a fan of cop movies set in L.A., was Gosling and Emma Stone playing lovers. But although they are scene-stealers for sure, even they couldn’t really save this movie.
“Gangster Squad” kicks off with squirm-inducing violence that’s unnerving. Then there are some good parts, even clever parts, but those are followed by massive plot holes. The movie is kind of a Frankenstein’s monster in the end. I’m a fan of many of the little things — I have to mention Enos once more because she rocked — but it could have been so much better.
Filmmakers should have drawn from “The Untouchables” and “L.A. Confidential” for inspiration. It might have helped. I blame poor directing and inconsistent writing and have to say … I’m not a fan. My advice is to wait for the DVD.