The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Gangster Squad – the good, the bad and the ugly

with 16 comments

GangsterSquadMy relationship with Gangster Squad was over in two hours. Well, to be honest I’m not sure there ever was a relationship. We barely had a fling.

During the time we spent together in the theatre we went through several phases.

At first I have to admit that I was a little bit taken by its pretty face. It looked attractive. Then we got to know each other a little better and realized we didn’t have much in common.

Were we ever in love? That would be a stretch to say.  Whatever we may have had was mostly based on Ryan Gosling’s star quality. It was a pleasure to see his soft smile and kind eyes after being absent from the film screen for the entire 2012. But in the end, not even Ryan Gosling’s presence could compensate for the fact that Gangster Squad isn’t a particularly good movie.

The Good
Let’s begin on the bright side. What made me like it a little to begin with? Well, as I said before, it’s got a nice exterior.

What especially caught my attention were the beautiful hats, always worn with elegance – the right size, the perfect angle on the head. I couldn’t stop admiring them, as well as the costumes and the overall look of it. I wouldn’t say that it looks authentic, but it looks like th end of the 40s in my imagination.

The cast is also pretty great. Seducing. Apart from Gosling there’s Josh Brolin, Sean Penn and Emma Stone, who all do their best trying to breathe some life into the script, sadly an impossible task, which brings us over to the next part: the bad.

The Bad
Gangster Squad is anything but original. This is not necessarily a bad thing; sometimes all you want is a leisure cruise through familiar landscapes. Painting-by-numbers movies have an advantage: you can count on that people “get it”. After all they’ve seen this film dozens of times before and they know the drill. There’s no need for guidance. In this case however it seems as if the screenwriters have forgotten this completely. They have absolutely no confidence in the intelligence of the audience. Everything needs to be explained, right on your nose. People talk in a way that nobody talks, in order to provide information to the viewer. Characters are introduced, plans and motives are shared. It feels out of place and it makes me cringe.

The Ugly
Despite the lacking writing, it seemed for a while as if the movie and I could, if not become lovers, at least learn tolerate each other. I said to myself that after all it was mildly entertaining. I could imagine it as a piece of aircraft in-flight entertainment, provided that you make a few cuts to take the edge of the excessive violence. You don’t want people to lose their appetite after all.

But all of this changed in the final five or ten minutes. All of a sudden someone burst out in a patriotic speech in honour of the LA police department. I don’t mind the LA cops, I’m sure they’re doing a fine job, but this was out of place, cheesy and made me wonder what kind of a sponsor deal they have. I actually ended up laughing, since it seemed to me like a parody of American film. But I don’t think it was intended as such.

The farewell
We had come to the end of the film and it was time to take farewell and finish whatever had been between the two of us.

“Gangster Squad”, I said with a firm voice. “’I’m sure there are a lot of nice people who have been involved in your creation, people who mean well and love what they do and tried their best to make you into a good film. But the chemistry between you and me just isn’t there. You may have the beautiful eyes of Ryan Gosling, but the rest of you is appalling to me. I don’t want to see you ever again.”

And I closed the door maybe a little too loudly.

Gangster Squad (Ruben Fleischer, US 2012) My rating: 2/5


Some of my colleagues in the Swedish network Filmspanarna also watched Gangster Squad.  Here’s what they made of it (in Swedish):

Fiffis Filmtajm
Fripps filmrevyer
Mode + film
Rörliga bilder och tryckta ord
Syndare i filmparadiset

Written by Jessica

January 16, 2013 at 8:00 am

16 Responses

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  1. It’s not you, its’ me… 😉 However, in this case I’m prone to lay some of the blame in the lap of Gangster Squad as well. As you point out, it has absolutely no trust in either its viewers or its characters. And trust as we all know is the cornerstone of every relationship.


    January 16, 2013 at 8:53 am

    • I guess if we’d had a lot of drinks, having our pub meeting BEFORE rather than after the screening, we might have appreciated it more for its simplicity. They should have a warning sign: “Best enjoyed with a minimum level of X per mille alcohol in your blood.”


      January 16, 2013 at 8:13 pm

  2. Great review! 🙂

    In a way, I think Gangster Squad is like a book for children. It´s an easyread gangstermanual for dummies and I think most adults crave something more than this. Anyhow, I had two nice hours at the cinema but now, a few days later, I can hardly remember the film. Strange.


    January 16, 2013 at 9:31 am

    • Thanks! Yes, I think you’re right about targeting the a child audience in the way the story was told. But with all that violence I’m afraid that the 15 y age limit is appropriate. As you say, it will be quickly forgotten. And good riddance!


      January 16, 2013 at 8:08 pm

  3. Great review, as always, Jessica. I really enjoyed the style you approached this with. Such a shame to hear it’s not up to much, though. This is a film that I’ve been looking forward to for a while. It has such a great cast but it seems that even they can’t save this one.

    Mark Walker

    January 16, 2013 at 10:20 am

    • Thanks Mark! The cast is great, I think it’s the script that is lacking. Unless you’re desperate for something to watch, I’d suggest you to pick something else.


      January 16, 2013 at 8:07 pm

  4. Love it. I’d seen a few reviews saying it was all style and little substance but I like the way you’ve put that across here! I think I’ll be giving it a miss – there are too many decent films coming out to warrant the cinema price here. Will catch it on DVD at some point though.
    Sorry your fling ended!

    Popcorn Nights

    January 16, 2013 at 11:52 am

    • You won’t miss anything to wait for it to come out on DVD. The people in my party thought it would make a decent popcorn film for chilling in a Saturday night. I think there are better options out there though.


      January 16, 2013 at 8:05 pm

  5. Nicely written. I can understand all the negative reviews of this movie, but personally loved it.


    January 16, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    • Tbh I’m not the biggest fan of the gangster genre. There are good ones, of course, but it’s not as if I go out of my way to watch every gangster movie I can. I can imagine this made me a little bit more negative than the average.


      January 16, 2013 at 8:04 pm

  6. Very good and funny review!


    January 16, 2013 at 2:18 pm

  7. Yeah, I don’t really get why they decided to go with the LAPD tribute in the end. It just didn’t make any sense och felt totally off. Agree with the hats and everything. Sooo nice.

    One thing though. Ryan Gosling. I’m starting to think that he maybe not is as good as I thought after Drive. It’s like he only has one expression, when he’s holding back, playing it down all the time. I think I need to see some of his older stuff like Lars and the Real Girl.


    January 16, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    • I agree that he’s done more interesting roles and performances in the past. And what’s really weird is the bright voice he uses, especially in the beginning. I have no idea what that was about.

      Have you seen Half Nelson? Unless you have, it might be something for you.


      January 16, 2013 at 11:05 pm

  8. Awesome post, as always. Loved the format.


    January 23, 2013 at 8:40 am

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