Starring Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone and Giovanni Ribisi. Written by Will Beall and Paul Lieberman. Directed by Ruben Fleischer. Produced by Bruce Berman, Ruben Fleischer, Dan Lin, Kevin McCormick, Jon Silk and Michael Tadross.
There are movies you see for the story and substance and there are movies you see for sheer entertainment value, whether it be laughs, violence, special effects. Gangster Squad is a movie that while it doesn't offer much of an original or interesting story, is ridiculously entertaining. Style takes precedence over substance and violence, flashiness and an all-star cast are the focal point of the film.
Set in 1949 Los Angeles, mob-connected Mickey Cohen has all but taken over the city and is untouchable even to the law. That is, until Sgt. John O'Mara (Brolin) enters the scene. A decorated police officer and expecting father, he takes his duty seriously and feels that Cohen's power and immunity needs to be taken away in order to stop the exploitation of young girls and the violence that stems from his mob activity. So, when the commissioner comes to him to start an uprising against the renowned gangster, there's no question he's onboard and he quickly puts together a team of capable officers including Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Gosling) and Officer Conway Keeler(Ribisi). They attack him head on and start a bloody war to gain control of the city again.
In a cast comprised of talented actors, Brolin and Gosling stand out and their chemistry is engaging- Brolin as the pig-headed man with uncompromising values and Gosling as the young dreamer who's fallen head over heels in love with Cohen's lover (Stone). Both actors avoid falling into the stereotypes that their characters could have been and give nuanced and modest performances that have more impact than the film's villain, Penn, who gives a completely over-the-top one dimensional performance. Not only is it difficult to accept such an disingenuous performance, but it's difficult to take his character seriously. So, the interaction with this important character are muddled and make for the most boring aspect of the film.
To the film's advantage, however, the writing is incredibly fast-paced and for every scene of dialogue, there's an even flashier scene of sensationalized slow-motion gunfire or intense car-chase scenes. Everything is stylized and mimics an old-fashioned noir movie, from the fashion to the swanky setting and you'll enjoy watching this movie, even though its story is an overly simplified portrayal of this true story. We learn nothing about the inner workings of Cohen's empire nor do we see how his violence is affecting the entire city. The politics between the gangsters and the police department aren't really made clear, either, so the film feels a little disconnected, as we don't understand the gravity of the situation or what's at stake. We do, however, get to see some promising performances and plenty of entertaining over-the top action and sexy dialogue, which is enough to keep us satisfied and warrants another viewing. It's a perfect choice for watching with friends and aren't in the mood for anything heavy or requiring close attention to detail.