You get the feeling that Ruben Fleischer would have been happy to make an homage to the gangster movies of the 1940s (filtered through both a 1970s and a 21st-century perspective) when he was making “Gangster Squad.”
That’s not the same thing, unfortunately, as making a derivative and slight piece of entertainment, which is what the bloody, only occasionally exciting “Gangster Squad” turns out to be.
Calling it “derivative” implies someone else having done this kind of thing before – and done it better. Well, gee, where to start? If you were to call this a West Coast version of “The Untouchables,” you wouldn’t be far off the mark, right down to a machine-gun fight on a large public staircase.
Oh wait, that’s right: Brian De Palma was quoting yet another film, Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” with his shoot-out in Chicago’s Union Station. I won’t accuse Fleischer of mimicking De Palma, because it seems obvious. Young filmmakers have been sampling “Scarface” on a regular basis for almost 30 years.
“Gangster Squad” patches together clichés of the gangster movie that were old when I was young, secure in the belief that a youth audience either doesn’t realize that it’s all been done before – or doesn’t care. From Jimmy Cagney to Sean Penn’s Mickey Cohen in this film, it’s always been the same: the megalomaniacal crime boss with money to burn to corrupt the power structure of his city, battling a small group of cops who refuse to be bought.
This review continues on my website.