Gangster Squad (US 2012)


Director – Reuben Fleischer, USA 2012.

A couple of reviews suggested that this was a fairly entertaining cops versus gangster story, based loosely on actual events. One lone honest cop recruits a small band of ethnically diverse fellow cops and takes on a vicious and powerful Los Angeles gangster supremo, Mickey Cohen. It turned out to be an uncredited remake of the 1987 success The Untouchables. Given the earlier film was scripted by David Mamet, directed by Brian de Palma and that it had a score by Ennio Morricone, this seems a somewhat foolhardy exercise. Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and company are not quite in the class of Sean Connery, Kevin Costner and Andy Garcia. And Sean Penn’s Cohen is a pale variation on De Niro’s Al Capone. Plus the CGI is less impressive than the earlier film’s Art Direction of William A. Elliott and Hal Gausman.

There should be credit for viewing the earlier film and/or script with close attention. This was most obvious in the final shootout, set in the grandiose foyer of a Chicago hotel and at the foot of a marble staircase! [Note though, I could not spot any homage to Eisenstein]. At one point Brolin throws Gosling, not a gun, but an ammunition clip. A little later a single deadly accurate gunshot is taken in exactly the same pose of that of Garcia in the earlier film, [here we get a homage to Cagney framed as a pieta]. The distinctive elements are stronger roles for the women: a more ethnically diverse team: and a brutal fistfight between Brolin and Penn, this replacing the rooftop showdown between Costner and Billy Drago.

The 1987 film translated the original television series into a gripping large screen drama: this 2012 production is a pale imitation of that classic which handles pastiche with much less aplomb than its predecessor.

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