In 'Gangster Squad', director Ruben Fleischer ('Zombieland') doesn't so much pay homage to Brian de Palma's The Untouchables' (1987) as rip it off wholesale. But where de Palma's movie was a loving homage and a brutal updating of the Warner gangster flicks of old, 'Gangster Squad' is a far less complex affair.
Bad guy (an over-the-top and overly made-up Sean Penn) must be stopped by the good guys - led by chisel-chinned shotgun-wielding boy scout, Josh Brolin. At the behest of his boss (a grizzled and growling Nick Nolte), Brolin sets up a squad of vigilante cops to bring down the bad guy. The movie pretty much follows 'The Untouchables' plot, minus de Palma's Hitchcockian cinematic flair, and is a pretty two-dimensional, straightforward, morally black and white, affair. That said, it's hugely enjoyable macho, gun-toting, good vs. bad, popcorn crunching fun.
There's a nod to feminism with the character of Brolin's intelligent and understanding wife, but at heart 'Gangster Squad' is a boys own adventure with little for the ladies to do but play supportive stay-at-home wives or glamourous gangsters' molls. Ryan Gosling squeaks with an annoyingly high-pitched voice and some pretty naff sub-Bogart dialogue; Emma Stone makes a sultry red-headed temptress and Penn doesn't so much chew the scenery as swallow it whole in greedy gulps, barely pausing for breath. But the movie belongs to Brolin, who plays the straight-laced, no-nonsense good guy cop with the determined resolution of a bulldog set on tearing apart a tennis ball.
'Gangster Squad' suffers from delusions of grandeur, convinced it's 'The Untouchables' for a new generation. Whilst it's undeniably entertaining while it lasts, it stays too close to de Palma's 'Untouchables' to ever come out from the long shadow cast by Costner, Connery and De Niro's far superior movie.
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