Director:  Ruben Fleischer
Writer: Will Beall
Cast: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Sean Penn and Michael Pena
Studio: Warner Brothers

I love Ruben Fleischer’s work. I know that the guy can’t catch a break with a lot of critics, but his energy and visual panache is enough to win me over. The Post WWII gangster romp Gangster Squad, set in a bullet riddled Los Angeles is criminal sensory overload. The film is loaded with gangsters owning every turf and calling the shots in the running of the city. A few good men get rounded up by a common ideal to take back their city, starting with getting rid of head gangster Mickey Cohen.

The story is pretty interesting, but heads nowhere. More people are making a bigger deal out of how screenwriter Will Beall has been hired to write “Justice League” than the current film.  But, the film’s strength falls back on its cast. Nevertheless, genre fans should appreciate the studious lengths that the filmmakers have taken to recreate Los Angeles in the late 1940s. Some of the action was lensed on genuine L.A. locations and enhances the authenticity of the action. Flinty-eyed Josh Brolin makes a sturdy hero, while suave Ryan Gosling channels Humphrey Bogart.

There was a potential for pushing the noir elements, or the graphic novel look, or the script taking the audience down a surprising story path. Or the music being memorable. Between some punchy editing and a rousing score, this movie could have created the momentum that was clearly on paper. But even so, the lack of inspiration by Sean Penn as the gangster Mickey Cohen fails to incite fear or danger to our heroes.

The problem that this film is going to face will be that audiences of film nerds are going to be expecting L.A. Confidential. They’re not going to get that and the gentry will have enough trouble with a period gangster picture. It’s a tall order balancing expectation with what will say, but that’s been the history of American cinema. I still respect Fleischer’s direction, but this film got away from him at points.

In the end, what we have is a noble effort. American cinema is littered with these movies and they deserve their place in the sun. However, they’re not going to win major awards or be remember by the mainstream. They’ll sit in their quiet corners and await their time to be rediscovered. Sure, the Aurora Theater shooting kicked a little wind out of this movie’s sails, but it’s not a forever thing. Audiences of the future will rediscover the visual feast that is this film.

RELEASE DATE: 01/11/2013

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