SYNOPSIS: In 1949, the chief of the LAPD enlists a group of police hard cases to form a gangster squad to go against Los Angeles crime boss Mickey Cohen.
REVIEW: 30 Minutes or Less and Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer goes dramatic Los Angeles mobster noir with a screenplay by Will Beall (Castle, the announced Justice League) from the book of the same name by Paul Lieberman. What happens when the law is not enough to keep organized crime in check? You create a task force with members more ruthless than the criminals ever were.
Ex-boxer Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn, Milk) only knows violence and power. He led with his fists in order to gain an upper hand in 1949 Los Angeles. As he controlled more and more of the city's organized crime, the cops and politicians not under Cohen's thumb are near powerless to combat the power hungry thug turned crime boss. Chief Parker (Nick Nolte, Warrior) enlists the service of homicide squad Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin, Men In Black III) to put together a squad of men who would work beyond the boundaries of the law in order to dish out justice against Cohen and his syndicate.
Gangster Squad is inspired by a true story as the men and women of post-war Los Angeles suffer under the rule of the mob. Part L.A. Confidential and part The Untouchables, Brolin's O'Mara puts together a squad of hard cases to work without the protective shield of the L.A.P.D. badge. Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling, The Ides of March) is the young capable cop who has as many vices as he does virtues.
African American Officer Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) on the beat is the only thing that stands in the way of heroin hitting his local streets. And Sgt. O'Mara's wife's urging, O'Mara ends up picking up old-style western six-shooter Officer Max Kennard (Robert Patrick, Trouble with the Curve) to give some accuracy to the boys' shooting. Tagging along with Kennard is a companion Officer Navidad Ramirez (Michael Peña, End of Watch) who doesn't seem to be right for the job but stands behind his guns when necessary.
Rounding out the squad is Officer Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi, Ted) who counterbalances to team's brawn with some brains as a former Army intelligence officer with skills and wiretapping to try to get at the bottom of Cohen's criminal mechanisms.
There may be several members to the righteous Gangsters Squad but Mickey Cohen has his own men surrounding him loaded to bear. Most serve as cannon fodder and human shields to protect, but Cohen does surround himself with a trusted bodyguard and his number one lieutenant who serve him above all else. But none of the men who carry Tommy guns and carry out Cohen's orders are no match for the power-hungry man himself. Brolin's O'Mara has his hands full with the weathered, progressive-thinker brute with a plan grander than the city itself. The Chicago mobs may have clung to the old ways just a little to long, allowing themselves to be lulled into thinking their empires couldn't be toppled.
Tommy guns roar and bullets riddle both personal property and torsos. The film pulls no punches as hot lead and closed fists lead to sprays of blood. Embroiled with men on both sides of the law, Grace Faraday (Emma Stone, The Amazing Spider-Man) serves as the softer side of a story filled with hardened and driven men. A girl just trying to make it in Hollywood Land, Faraday ends up being an evening gown swishing, crimson-lipped dame on the air of both the domineering Mickey Cohen and the charismatic Jerry Wooter. Stone smokes up each scene she walks her gams into, but sometimes does not have enough to do to warrant part of the story.
Gangster Squad is the perfect post-noir period piece for your hard-boiled enjoyment. Of course, there are moments of Hollywood Land cinematic bravado. Such things are inevitable when there is such a vast library of storytelling already projected on the silver screen, plus guns and gristled men of action. Quentin Tarantino would be proud of the mob/gangster squad standoffs. And Kevin Costner, remember that scene at the train station with Elliot Ness in The Untouchables? Brolin, Gosling, and Penn ellipse that with more bullets and blood on the carpeted steps of a posh hotel. Director Fleischer and writer Beall ramp up the violence, the intrigue and the humor. Michael Peña and Giovanni Ribisi add their own sense of style to the keep the mood as light as it can handle.
Gangster Squad is the perfect blend of bullets, blood, and classy babes. Brolin's square jaw, Penn's piercing stares, Gosling's charisma, and Stone's sultry eyes make for fine entertainment taking place on the streets of the City of Angels.
★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5 | Movie - DVD - Rental
Rated: R Strong violence and language.
Release Date: January 11, 2013
Runtime: 1 hour 53 minutes
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writers: Will Beall, Paul Liberman
Cast: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Nick Nolte, Robert Patrick, Michael Peña, Giovanno Ribisi