THINK TODAY'S AMERICA has problems with assault weapons? If Gangster Squad is any indication, 1949 was the year when bullets fell like raindrops. Loosely based on Paul Lieberman's book Gangster Squad: Covert Cops, the Mob, and the Battle for Los Angeles, the film is both a mushy lovenote to the gangster genre and a gun-happy bloodbath that gives Django Unchained a run for its money.
Josh Brolin plays straight-arrow LA cop Sgt. John O'Mara—who returns from the war to learn that crime boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) has built a new kind of war zone where crime, corruption, drugs, rape, and murder run rampant. O'Mara is ordered to form a covert squad of honest cops (including the downright dreamy Ryan Gosling) to take down Cohen... aaaaand if you've seen The Untouchables, you know exactly where this story is going, and go there it certainly does.
Make no mistake, even as a carbon copy, comic-book version of Kevin Costner's 1987 movie, Gangster Squad gets the job done. It's a sweaty, haymaker-throwing brawler of a film with gorgeous art direction, snappy patter, blood-splattered violence, and the smoky come-hither eyes of the aforementioned Gosling. The heavy-handed clichés are pursued with such zealous affection that it's hard not to smile—until about the three-quarter mark.
That's about the time when your smile slowly turns to disappointment after realizing there's nothing here but gorgeous clichés. The two-thirds mark would've been the perfect time to take this film in a new, exciting direction. Unfortunately, every twist and turn is telegraphed well in advance, and by the time we arrive at the bloody bullet-drenched dénouement, every person you expected to live or die has dutifully done so. What you're left with is three-quarters of a fun movie, renewed concerns about Hollywood's fetish with assault weapons, and fleeting memories of Ryan Gosling's dreamy eyes.
So there's that.