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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Gangster Squad has been critically destroyed by reviewers, bloggers, and general audiences, and it also bombed horribly at the box office. But, you know what, it is really not that bad. Make no mistake; this is not a very good movie. It is one-dimensional, plodding, clichéd, and a perfect example of style-over-substance. Oddly enough, though, none of that bothered me.
I suppose why this movie worked for me was that it is so slick and stylish. Generally, I am not a big fan of gangster movies. Films like The Godfather, Goodfellas, and Casino are all very well-made films. They are just not my thing. However, I love films where the gangster elements are done in more of a pulp manner. The Untouchables and Road to Perdition are perfect examples of this. Gangster Squad falls into this camp as well. It is not nearly as good as those two previous examples, but it was just stylish enough for me to be entertained by it.
What also helped me to enjoy the movie is that all the actors are completely into their roles. True, many of the characters are one-off caricatures (the no-nonsense leader, the young playboy, the sharpshooter veteran, the take-no-prisoners mobster, etc), but I think the cast knew this as well and just had fun with it. Ryan Gosling in particular, with his not-quite-1940s-Chicago-or-maybe-New York-accent, was clearly having a blast.
That is all I really have to say about Gangster Squad. It is not a good film, and you should get rid of any expectations of it being high art. But, it is kind of fun, in a throwaway manner. I was honestly surprised that I enjoyed it. It is what it is, and I liked it on that level.