Gangster Squad


Directed by Ruben Fleischer. Starring Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Sean Penn, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Peña, Robert Patrick 15A cert, general release, 112 min

The actors try hard but don’t stand a chance in this clichéd, would-be LA noir, writes DONLAD CLARKE

You have to hand it to the folks behind Gangster Squad. They’ve spent a lot of money making their film look like (at best) the video- game LA Noir and (at worst) one of the period plays what Ernie used to write for Morecambe and Wise.

A shameless transposition of The Untouchables from Chicago to Los Angeles, Gangster Squad is laden with clunky B-movie clichés: guns with inexhaustible magazines, coats that don’t crease, cops’ wives who feel widowed by their husbands’ work. It is rare to discover so many fine actors toiling so pointlessly on such average material.

The picture follows the efforts of the LAPD to dismantle the post-war crime syndicate headed by New York gangster Mickey Cohen. If the film is to be believed, the strategy was to gather a group of anachronistically multi-racial super-cops into a more formally dressed forerunner of the Avengers.

Josh Brolin can beat up a dozen mobsters without drawing more than a cursory breath. Robert Patrick is an actual cowboy (with a gunbelt and everything). One wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Ryan Gosling can see through walls. As it happens, Ryan is just your typical rogue cop who doesn’t play by the rulebook, who snubs his nose at authority, who lives on the edge . . . and so on.

To be fair, you couldn’t say the actors weren’t trying. Sean Penn, unrestrained as Cohen, is often positioned in front of a large steak. Well, he does need something to chew on. For the rest of the picture, offered nothing but the bland pabulum of Will Beall’s script, he delivers an arresting impersonation of a man trying to angrily masticate mouthfuls of natural yoghurt.

Ruben Fleischer, director of the over-praised Zombieland, alternates comic hyper-violence (a man torn in two by cars) with attempts at something more sombre (the death of one, always doomed super-cop). The music surges at inappropriate moments. The hats are at the wrong angle.

Forget it, Jake. It really isn’t Chinatown.