To do so, Sarge must first assemble an all-star team of clean cops, and here the movie turns into a shoddy replica of The Untouchables. The director, Ruben Fleischer, who had a hit with Zombieland three years ago even though the film seemed to rush its ending, this time rushes the whole movie, scarcely giving any shadings to any character as he races ahead to the next hectic shootout or explosion. Sarge’s team is so hastily assembled that it seems almost random.
First to join is a cynical cop named Wooters (Ryan Gosling) O’Mara seems to pick because the two recently bumped into each other at the station. Then O’Mara picks up a sharpshooter (Robert Patrick), an outcast (Michael Pena), and an all-purpose geek (Giovanni Ribisi) who does things like tap phone lines. So little effort is put into establishing these characters that they essentially merge into a single indistinguishable blob of rough justice. Sarge’s equally blurry wife Connie (Mireille Enos) who, in one scene, is telling Sarge to keep his head down and avoid confrontations with any gangsters, in the next scene dives into the team-building process and instantly becomes an expert on spotting honest cops simply by looking at their files.
Most of the film is a demented rush from one ridiculous action scene to the next. In the early going O’Mara invades a flophouse to free an innocent girl who is about to be raped and in the process apparently randomly kills two guys who try to stop him in the elevator on the way up (it’s actually not clear what happens due to the sloppy editing that characterizes the whole film). You would think that, even in 1949 L.A., it might be inconvenient for a cop to be involved in a killing (wouldn’t there be paperwork, at least?), but Sarge and his team of destroyers keep mowing through the city with utter impunity until the geeky Ribisi character asks, not unreasonably, “Can you remind me of the difference between us and them?”