"Gangster Squad" debuted in theaters Friday, January 11, 2013 with an incredible ensemble cast including Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Nick Nolte, and Anthony Mackie. This late 40's to early 50's period piece is inspired by true events involving the Los Angeles Police Department's (LAPD) fight to take back the "City of Angels" from the East Coast Mafia led by "Crime Boss" Mickey Cohen.
Academy Award winner Sean Penn portrays Mickey Cohen in the film and demonstrates why he is considered a topnotch character actor. The storytelling of the film's plot provides authenticity with the loosely based depiction of other real life characters such as former Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker played by Nick Nolte, and also includes a character depiction of real life former Officer Darryl Gates who later became the Los Angeles Police Chief from 1978-1992.
The production design throughout the film transports the audience to a different era with Los Angeles backdrops that include Union Station, Chinatown, and Hollywood nightclub scenes such as the film replica of the popular 1940-50's Hollywood nightclub Slapsy Maxie.
The costume design was equally brilliant in this film, particularly the vibrantly colored and form fitted dresses worn by Emma Stone, that seemed to echo the allure of Hollywood legends like Lana Turner.
The use of special effects and lighting to enhance the gun fighting scenes was very dramatic and some might call it "over-the-top," but it totally worked for this type of period piece which calls for a little extra flare.
The decision to cut the Grauman's Chinese Theatre shooting scene was the right call, in light of the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, and the replacement scene was more appropriate and definitely keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.
Overall, the most impressive part of the "Gangster Squad" is the strong cast. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have amazing on-screen chemistry as was first seen when they teamed up in the film "Crazy, Stupid, Love." The confrontation scene between Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) and Sergeant John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) is magnetic as the two seasoned actors morphed into their characters flawlessly. Although not as well known, but definitely a rising star, Anthony Mackie holds his own as Officer Coleman Harris. Mackie's previous films include "The Hurt Locker" and "The Adjustment Bureau" and he will be appearing as a Super Hero in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" scheduled for a 2014 theater release date.
Without question, this film is one to see because it includes all of the elements of great storytelling: an intriguing plot, brilliant production and costume design, beautiful backdrops, and a powerhouse cast. What's not to like!