This is a well made movie but at the same time also one that offers far too little.

Sure, this is some decent enough entertainment but that doesn't mean that it does everything right as well. On the contrary really. In some regards it's even a really poor movie, especially story-wise.

The problem with the story is that it's very hard to discover a true main plot line in this movie. There is very little to latch on to as a viewer and it's hard to get behind any of the characters and their motivations, since everything gets handled so poorly and is basically nonexistent.

In essence the story is very simple and straightforward. This can be a good thing at times but in this particular case, this movie feels terribly underwritten. So basically it's a movie about a crime lord, played by Sean Penn, who is trying to take control of Los Angeles and about the special police squad, that is assigned to stop him. But what's the big plan and what are Mickey Cohen's (Sean Penn) specific intentions? I have absolutely no idea, since the movie never bothers to explain. And what big plan does the police have to stop him? There seems to be none really and all this movie basically consists out of are police men and gangster shooting at each other, busting places and chases, which works fine for its entertainment but gives the movie little to none depth.

This movie often gets compared to "The Untouchables" and for some good reasons. They feature a similar sort of concept, similar type of characters and it is approximately set in the same time period (well, not really but it surely still looks and feels that way!). This however also forms a bit of a problem for this movie. Saying this movie is like "The Untouchables" already raises certain expectations, while the movie down in its core is still a totally different movie, that's also going for a totally different approach. While "The Untouchables" is more gritty like entertainment, "Gangster Squad" is far more over-the-top and doesn't always take itself as seriously. In some ways the movie even feels more like a comic-book type of movie and there is nothing wrong with that of course, as long as you go in having the right sort of expectations and don't expect anything different from this movie.

A thing that the movie has going for it is its cast. I wish I could also say that it uses its actors well though. As mentioned before, the characters are all terribly shallow ones and it's hard to feel involved with any of them but at least most of the actors still give their best, which results in still some pretty good and entertaining performances. I for instance liked Josh Brolin in this, as a tough looking, tough sounding and tough acting cop. And I indeed also liked Sean Penn as the movie it's main villain, despite the fact that he hardly gets anything interesting to do in this. I was actually surprised to see him as such a stereotypical, mustache twirling, villain in this, since I thought that he refused to play villains, ever since "Carlito's Way". He's good at it tough and easily still the most entertaining thing about the movie. All of the other characters and actors aren't really very noteworthy. Hardly any of that is their fault though but it should be blamed on its simplistic and lacking writing instead.

Positive thing to also note about this movie is that it remains a well made- and good looking one. Technically and visually it does very little wrong and yes, you actually could say that this is the foremost reason why the movie still remains to be such a perfectly watchable one.

It's perfectly entertaining but just not a very good movie though!


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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