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Film & DVD

'Gangster Squad'

Poor screenwriting reveals that this movie is all style, no substance

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Sleek and stylish, it's clear that Gangster Squad wants to be a brutish, pulpy pastiche. There are plenty of neon lights, fedoras and dames in red dresses. Art Deco is all the rage, gun casings ping off marble floors during firefights, and the soundtrack boasts a playlist of well-chosen period tunes (the most original touch in the film). But the movie is too glossy to be film noir and too formulaic and shallow to be as hardboiled as, say, L.A. Confidential. Instead, Gangster Squad comes off as the most violent episode of Dragnet ever made – with its jingoistic, might-makes-right flag-waving intact.

Originally slated to be released last summer, Gangster Squad was held until January due to the shooting at the Aurora movie theater in Colorado, which also inspired a reshoot of its biggest action scene – a gunfight in a movie theater that now occurs in Chinatown. I applaud the filmmakers' sensitivity to the subject of real-world violence, but can't help but think it's oddly placed in a film that opens with a man being pulled apart by a pair of automobiles.

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