DIRECTED BY Ruben Fleischer
STARS Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling
FORGET IT, JERRY, IT'S CHINATOWN: Elite cops Jerry Wooten (Ryan Gosling) and John O'Hara (Josh Brolin) find themselves in a familiar L.A. setting in Gangster Squad. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
Is it professional laziness to dismiss Gangster Squad with the simple declaration that it's nothing more than a dim-witted cross between L.A. Confidential and The Untouchables? Perhaps, but such an action is still nowhere near as lazy as those exhibited by the makers of this lackluster crime meller, which poorly cribs from so many previous movies that the end result suggests Sarah Palin attempting to digest speaking points from Stephen Hawking.
Set in 1949 Los Angeles, the picture, which claims to be "based on a true story" but turns out to be as authentic as The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, finds William Parker (Nick Nolte), the city's controversial chief of police (who didn't actually obtain the post until a year after the movie's setting, but never mind), deciding that the best way to stop gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) from taking over the entire city is to organize an elite team to work outside the law in an attempt to being him down. The crew hits every demographic for today's all-embracive audience: the workaholic team leader (Josh Brolin), the wisecracking heartthrob (Ryan Gosling), the experienced old-timer (Robert Patrick), the soft-spoken Latino (Michael Pena), the switchblade-wielding black cop (Anthony Mackie) and the morally torn egghead (Giovanni Ribisi) who absurdly asks how they're any better than the mobsters they're fighting (I'm not sure how bugging Cohen's living room remotely compares to Cohen having rivals physically torn in half by two cars, but maybe that's just me).
Penn's Mickey Cohen is as cartoonish as Al Pacino's Big Boy Caprice in Dick Tracy, Gosling again dazzles his Crazy, Stupid, Love co-star Emma Stone (as Cohen's moll) with his flexing pecs, and the risible dialogue stings like an ear infection. "Here comes Santy Claus!" bellows Cohen before shooting up everything in sight — a reminder that some movies have no more worth than that proverbial lump of coal.