Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review: Gangster Squad

Judged by modern standards, Gangster Squad is a pretty terrible movie. It gives haters plenty of hate to make unsweetened haterade with, and share it with one another at haters' balls, which are the types of parties everyone says they'll go to before bailing out at the last second with lame excuses.

Count me among those who bail. Gangster Squad may be a poor movie, but it's a top-a-the-heap gangsta pitcha. That's "gangster picture" pronouned in the voice of a 1920s newsreel announcer in 1940s gangsta pitchas, in case you were wondering. And as a gangsta pitcha, it's a heck of a video game.

The look, vibe and narration are straight out of the video game L.A. Noire, which is a distillation of the sorts of pulp fiction that Quentin Tarantino sent up and paid tribute to in Pulp Fiction. Gangster Squad is so pulpy, Tarantino probably will remake it next year, with Christoph Waltz as Mickey Cohen and Quentin Tarantino as Random Australian Guy Who Is In The Movie For No Reason Whatsoever.

This gangsta pitcha, though, doesn't have scenes like Tarantino's movies do, but missions. And those missions are less L.A. Noire than Grand Theft Auto, Max Payne and Black Ops Negative 3, the unreleased prequel based in 1940s gangsta pitchas. L.A. Director Ruben Fleischer is obsessed with creating ludicrous and cheesy ways for armies of trenchcoat-wearing, fedora-donning cops and mobsters to shoot what the NRA would vehemently deny are assault rifles (because assault rifles don't exist and are just a lie propagated by government schools, much like the distributive property of algebra).

As top cop John O'Mara, Josh Brolin shoots everything on the screen until all the flashing red dots on the radar circle stop blinking.

Ryan Gosling, as his smarmy, womanizing sidekick, has a differrent job, which is to mumble "hey girl" to Cohen's girl, Emma Stone, until she becomes his emotional plaything. (This only takes the "hey" in the very first "hey girl" to work, by the way.) Sean Penn's job as Cohen is to snarl and rage around breaking stuff in his high-class dining room. Meaning he basically plays himself.

My favorite moment in the movie comes when Brolin's conscience gets to him and he starts questioning whether or not he's better than the gangsters he's going after, being that he too shoots up public places in desperate power plays. This wouldn't be as cool if it wasn't followed by what happened next; that he forgets all that because the gangsta pitcha video game tells him it's time for the END BOSS FINAL MISSION, in which he and the gangster squad most open fire with their non-assault rifles on a gangster-fortified fortress, eliminating all the red dots on the radar until it's time for the final Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots fistfight, which also has much in common with the Rocky Balboa-Tommy "Not-An-Assault-Rifle-Homonym" Gunn final throwdown at the end of Rocky V.

The world doesn't have enough movies in which the good and bad guy dispense with the guns to slug it out like men in the final battle, but if the trend started by Gangster Squad holds, 2013 will feature approximately 26 such movies. That will still leave us a few short of the quota required for everything to be right with the universe, but it will have to do for now.

Starring Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Seann Penn, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Michael Pena and Giovanni Ribisi. Written by Will Beall. Directed by Ruben Fleishcer. 113 minutes. Rated R.

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