113 Min | Action – Crime – Drama | January 2013
IMDB Rating: 6.8
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
Gangster Squad Review: Director Ruben Fleischer’s (of ‘ZOMBIELAND’ and ’30 MINUTES OR LESS’ fame) take on a gangster film about the LAPD officers who waged war on Mickey Cohen and his gang in the 1940s and 1950s. The script was written by Will Beall (who’s only previous writing experience is for the TV series ‘CASTLE’) and it was adapted from the book ‘Tales from the Gangster Squad’ by Paul Lieberman. It’s highlighted by it’s all-star cast including Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Emma Stone, Nick Nolte, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick, Anthony Mackie and Michael Pena. If you don’t take it too seriously and are just looking for a good time it’s a lot of fun and packs some killer thrills and beautiful visuals.
Gangster Squad is set in 1949 Los Angeles when Mickey Cohen (Penn) was the most powerful gangster in the California criminal underworld. Chief Bill Parker (Nolte) makes it his mission to stop Cohen, with whatever means necessary, so he picks Sgt. John O’Mara (Brolin) to lead up a special task force, after O’Mara recently saved a young girl from one of Cohen’s deranged thugs (James Hebert). This doesn’t sit well with O’Mara’s pregnant wife Connie (Mireille Enos) but she reluctantly gives him her support and helps him handpick his team. Famous gangster-killer Max Kennard (Patrick), his partner Navidad Ramirez (Pena), wire-tapper Conway Keeler (Ribisi) and Detective Coleman Harris (Mackie) all join the team. O’Mara asks his buddy Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Gosling), who’s sleeping with Cohen’s girl Grace Faraday (Stone), to join the team as well but Wooters turns him down. Then Jerry witnesses the viscous killing of a young boy, by Cohen’s men, and has a change of heart.
Gangster Squad is all style over substance but it’s beautiful that way. The action is thrilling and the cast is dynamite. It’s always pretty to look at and about as cool as a 40s gangster flick can be. It’s completely over the top and not believable in any way but it’s just a lot of fun like that. You of course can’t compare it to classic gangster films like ‘THE GODFATHER’, ‘GOODFELLAS’ or ‘THE DEPARTED’ because it doesn’t have the character depth or intriguing plot but it’s still as cool as most B gangster/action flicks out there. It wants to be ‘THE UNTOUCHABLES’ and it doesn’t quite live up to that either (which is classic as well). It lies somewhere more in between ‘UNTOUCHABLES’ and 1991’s ‘MOBSTERS’.