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Gangster Squad….. OR, The Untouchables for an Idiot Generation

Ruben Fleischer’s Gangster Squad has an all star cast of old and new talent. Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone to name a few. All of which are a pleasure to watch on the big screen. This film has the potential to be astounding. For me though, it seems to fall short of what it could have been. I enjoyed it don’t get me wrong but throughout the film I found myself constantly waiting. Waiting for more. Waiting to see something original. Something new. I was left waiting even when the credits rolled.

At this point I thought why didn’t I just watch The Untouchables? The narrative is almost exactly the same. The premise at least. It was a dumbed down version of The Untouchables. The story follows Sgt John O’Mara as he puts together a team of odd ball police officers to take down crime lord Micky Cohen’s operations in the city of Los Angeles by destroying every aspect of his syndicate from the ground up. Very similar to The Untouchables. The team O’Mara assembles is made up of people with different specialities, the brains, the brawn etc. It’s all in all, very obvious. From the moment you meet characters in this team you know which ones will kick the bucket. Writers seem to use the same conventions over and over again to ‘humanise’ characters so that it means more to audiences when they are sent on “a vacation in a pine box”. It’s frustrating.

The film was very obvious from start to finish, it felt like they had taken the basic core premise from The Untouchables, added comic book like caricatures instead of characters and simplified the narrative, not to mention ploughing in as many slow motion shots and cheesy one liners as humanly possible into there such as “here comes santa clause!”. It’s almost as if Fleischer has remade The Untouchables twenty odd years down the line and dumbed it down for todays ‘all I want is explosions, boobs and swear words’ generation. My generation in fact, unfortunately. 2D characters and a predictable storyline with impressive special effects and fight scenes, for me doesn’t match up to a gripping narrative with complex characters. I suppose the difference is The Untouchables is a realistic thriller and Gangster Squad is an, at times, ultra violent action movie.

BUT as much as it was missing the same level of gripping narrative as its predecessor it seems to be very proud of its ultra ‘cool’ cinematography. With a concentration on slow motion in many action scenes it feels a lot like a Zach Snyder film, which I did enjoy in a sense that it felt like pure geek porn. The film looks great. The sets and costumes are amazing, truly capturing the era depicted and Sean Penn’s makeup had me mesmerised. It transformed his face and often made me forget I was watching Penn.

It’s an easy watch, easy to follow, exciting at times and makes that lifestyle look very desirable. But in terms of story…… It was obvious. So, I’m going to watch The Untouchables.

Dave

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