Review: Set in the America of 1940s, Gangster Squad is the story of a mafia whose aim was to be the King of the business. The film is based partially on the true events about the face-off between a secret team of the Los Angeles Police Department and the gangsters, led by the notorious Mickey Cohen. In the introductory scene, Cohen, played with a rather sinisterly Neanderthal relish by Sean Penn, oversees the execution of a soon-to-be-ex-ally. Up in the Hollywood hills, behind the sign that still reads "Hollywoodland", this man is pulled apart. In two-pieces. Perhaps it happened in reality or perhaps it was only illusionary, but launching a gangster flick on a barbaric note such as this, was a risk, that Rubin Fleischer took.
Penn succeeds in playing his role with much panache, despite a script that has him portraying the character like a villain in a certain James Bond film. He provides a lot of psychological detail to Cohen that it becomes fascinating, yet evil to the point of becoming demonic. On more than two occasions, an associate of his messes up some situation, apologizes, which Mickey Cohen instantly accepts and at the next instant has the man killed. An example of this is when he says, “you know the drill” to his henchmen and soon after you see blood splattered all over. Possibly one may assume that there is a ‘drill’ in every room of his house, just incase the expression is used.
Enter fearless war hero Sgt. John O’Mara played by Josh Brolin who in the beginning appeared to be the only honest cop in the whole city. Until he meets Sgt. Jerry Wooters played by Ryan Gosling. Gosling’s character is rather interesting – he is a man who conveniently conceals his pangs of conscience through hedonistic pleasures – which includes falling for Cohen’s mistress, Connie, played by Emma Stone.
However, when the chief of police taps O’Mara to form a clandestine squad to take Cohen down and dismantle his drug, gambling and prostitution rings, more than half a dozen officers prove eager to play ‘gangster’. The plan is simple – be one of them bad guys and take the mafia down – to serve a greater good. The crew that O’Mara finally assembles is played by a rather impressive team of actors that includes Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Michael Peña and Giovanni Ribisi.
By now you’d have inferred that Gangster Squad is a very violent film, from beginning where a man is chained to two cars and torn in half to the machine-gun battle at a hotel in the climactic scene. This film was scheduled to open in September last year however the release got stalled, following the mass killings in Colorado, wherein a scene depicting people shot mercilessly inside a movie theater had to be canned and re-shot. Director Ruben Fleischer leans too hard on the violence card, but with little return in the way of excitement, and totally at the expense of the characters and storyline. It is only Sean Penn that feels completely fresh. Perhaps he was playing a layered copy of a movie stereotype. Nonetheless, he seems to be living and breathing convincingly in another time and another place. Even if this place is only a movie fantasy.
Verdict: Brutal, barbaric, mixed with some good acting, a treat for all Gangster-movie lovers.
Release date: Jan 11, 2013
Genre: Crime, Drama, Action
Cast & Crew: Josh Brolin, Emma Stone, Josh Pence, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Music: Steve Jablonsky
Length: 1 hr 53 mins
Writer: Will Beall, Paul Lieberman