After a long delay in release to pay respect to the tragedies that occurred in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., the violent Ruben Fleischer-directed flick Gangster Squad is ready to hit theaters.
But did the film live up to the hype? Depends on what you're looking for.
The reviews for Gangster Squad all agree on one thing—a cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Josh Brolin and Sean Penn is awesome. But the story itself may not offer the seriousness some expected for this chronicle of the LAPD's fight to keep East Coast mafia types out of Los Angeles in the 1940s and '50s.
Here's what the critics had to say...
• Todd McCarthy from The Hollywood Reporter writes, "Ultimately, Gangster Squad is all about instant gratification, almost as much for the characters as for the viewer. The film pays corny lip service to the idea that, by using thuggish, extra-legal tactics, the off-the-grid cops are lowering themselves to the same level as the gangsters they're pursuing. No lines of dialogue here ring less true than these, as everything else bout the film so fully endorses their Wild West methods."
• "It's here that a fascinating true-crime foundation gives way to fantasy; there are moments in Gangster Squad where Fleischer is so far out on a limb, it makes Dick Tracy look like a documentary," Variety's Peter Debruge says. "But it's all in the spirit of classic B-movie fun, and however over-the-top the action gets (a shootout in the lobby of the Park Plaza Hotel is a veritable orgy of bullet casings, blazing muzzles and flying shrapnel), every creative decision seems to be in service of telling the most entertaining possible story, backed by first-rate wardrobe and art contributions, and underscored by Steve Jablonsky's might-makes-right music"
• "Director Ruben Fleischer (best known for 2009 horror comedy Zombieland) keeps the tone fairly light, leavening the sometimes brutal violence and occasional drama with a steady supply of snappy comedic moments. The highly saturated look - reminiscent of art deco advertising imagery from the period - adds to the almost comic book feel," John Hazelton from The Screen Daily writes.
• Andrew Jones from BoxOfficeBuz.com says, "Gangster Squad may be based on a true story, but it doesn't mean the film is limited to dry dialogue and slow-paced build-up. The film takes itself as seriously as Taken 2, and throws in plenty of stylistic elements, schlock and writing that would be as cool coming from Cagney's lips as it does Gosling's. This is a fantasy of the criminal genre and a love of old time Los Angeles fulfilled on screen. Not subtle, but plenty of fun to watch unfold before you."
• "Is The Untouchables untouchable? Gangster Squad director Ruben Fleischer has set out to prove not. His slick, all-star film takes the same dynamic as Brian De Palma's Chicago classic—law-enforcers go off the books to battle a gangster on his own dirty terms—and transplants it to LA, aiming for something bigger, glitzier, nastier. But while it's not lacking in visual razzle-dazzle or blood, story-wise it rarely manages to shock or excite. Where it does succeed, though, is with its villain," Empire magazine's Nick de Semlyen says, and adds, "Sean Penn's not been this fun since Jeff Spicoli and there's plenty of rip-roaring action, but Gangster Squad proves a minor entry in the annals of LA noir."
• Doug Norrie from Cinema Blend writes, "A film so unapologetic in its historical discrepancies that it doesn't even throw a 'Based on true [anything]' in the trailer. And while it maybe shouldn't matter, it might for critics. When a movie looks like extracted more context from a video game (L.A. Noire maybe) than reality, we may be left with a flick that actually just is a video game reel put up on the big screen with a bunch of famous faces. This might not bode well for director Ruben Fleischer."