Gangster Squad has been on most people's "Must See" list since paparazzi shots of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone swanning about in 40s garb were published - possibly two of the most popular actors around today. But alas, this super-violent thriller has more in common with Dick Tracy than LA Confidential and other far superior LA-set noirs.
Supposedly based on a true story, Gangster Squad chronicles a group of relatively unknown cops attempting to stop flat-nosed Jewish gangster Mickey Cohen from completely taking over the city. Cohen has previously portrayed on-screen by Harvey Keitel in 1991's Bugsy and received an Academy Award nomination for his performance, and I can say rather confidentially that Sean Penn will not be achieving the same feat. Sure, it's nice to see the notoriously serious actor letting himself go a bit for probably the first time since he became an idol for stoners as Jeff Spicoli, but it's so comical he makes Fat Sam look like Tommy DeVito. Then again, he doesn't showcase his burnt nipples more than once so that's something to be thankful for.
Penn's distractingly prosthetic face aside, there's plenty to moan and meh about in Gangster Squad. Like why has Ryan Gosling borrowed David Beckham's voice? Who thought it was a good idea to mix extreme violence with a Zack Snyder's slo-mo action style? And what in God's name is Nick Nolte saying? He makes Bane look eloquent. Shit, he even made this interview look clear and cohesive. (Side Note: I'd just like to remind everyone that we live in a world where Nolte has been crowned Sexiest Man Alive and Gosling hasn't.)
The film is riddled with issues so extreme that it makes very good actors look shit, but the worst thing is that they clearly spent so much time and money getting the starry cast and tarting them up in admittedly attractive threads, that no-one noticed that almost everyone has been miscast, and none more so than Emma Stone. In her first scene she's introduced as a typical gangster's moll; a "tamayta" with a good hair and a bad smoking habit. And then, after watching people get bludgeoned to death left, right and centre, we're supposed to care about a woman who supposedly got mixed up with the wrong crowd after coming to Hollywood to be a star. That's fair enough, but at least cast a woman who doesn't look about 20 and emotes a more convincingly damaged persona. Kim Basinger she ain't.
Gangster Squad has enough press and star-power surrounding it to ensure a hit, and for the most part I was entertained and crucially, never bored, but as it's my first anticipated film of 2013 I'm massively disappointed.