‘Gangster Squad’ is a movie filled with action and violence. Directed by Ruben Fleischer (‘Zombieland’) the story is inspired by the book of the same name by Paul Lieberman. Set in the 40’s era after World War II, the movie chronicles the attempted takeover of the city of Los Angeles by Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) a Brooklyn gangster. Mickey is involved in illegal activities throughout the city that in includes drugs, prostitution and gambling. In response to his move on the city, a secret task force ‘The Gangster Squad’ is formed to fight Mickey on his new turf.
The has an all-star cast that includes Josh Brolin (Sgt. John O’Mara), Ryan Gosling (Sgt. Jerry Wooters), Robert Patrick (Officer Max Kennard), Michael Peña (Officer Navidad Ramirez), Giovanni Ribisi (Officer Conway Keeler), Anthony Mackie (Officer Coleman Harris), Mireille Enos (Connie O’Mara), Nick Nolte (Chief Parker) and Emma Stone (Grace Faraday). The movie is fast paced entertainment filled with guns, guns, and more guns.
The costumes are perfect for this period film. Every detail from the 40s is present, right down to the Franciscan China place setting. While the scenery provides views of the local historical monuments such as the Mt. Wilson Observatory and Union Station, something is missing. Maybe this can be attributed to the fact that a key scene had to be reshot after the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting.
Despite the clearly talented cast, the story seems to suffer from a generic mobster genre chronicle of events. The characters and storyline resembles the 1987 movie, ‘The Untouchables, but there is a disconnect. The story doesn’t flow smoothly.
Nevertheless, Sean Penn’s over the top portrayal of the brutal gangster seems to work for this film. While Josh Brolin’s performance counters as an ex-soldier desperate to restore his city to the freedoms he fought to preserve. Despite its flaws, the action still drives the film and you find yourself drawn into the story as if you are a member of the squad fighting the good fight.
‘Gangster Squad’ is Rated R for strong violence and language.