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Film Review: Gangster Squad


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Los Angeles in 1949 is under the tight and violent grip of Mickey Cohen (played by a shouty Sean Penn) who rules everything under a cloud of fear. Nick Nolte’s stern chief-of police tasks Josh Brolin’s Sgt John O'Mara (seemingly the last ‘good cop’ in town) to put together a squad to smash the gangsters. Violence ensues.

Gangster SquadGangster Squad is classic film noir, made all shiny and new and dragged into the 21st Century. It is loud, it is brash and it is in your face. A man getting ripped in half by two cars, for crossing Cohen, sets the tone for this high-paced flick in the first few minutes.

This is the perfect big-budget forum for the talents of director Ruben Fleischer, responsible for the brilliantly funny and comically violent Zombieland, who takes to the scenes with flamboyant glee using every trick in the book to bring a visual feast to the screen. Gunfights explode in a mass of slow-motion and pumped up volume (that may well leave a ringing in your ears).

The story of corrupt cops and crime is reminiscent of the brilliant LA Confidential, but fans of that classic cop-caper will be left a little disappointed by the shallow script which features none of the department politics, moral dilemma and subtle thrills that made it so great. In many cases the film’s dialogue rattles along to simply fill the gaps between the action sequences.

Without the visual feast and superb casting (including solid performances throughout and with the additional eye-candy of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone) Gangster Squad would become an average action-romp - but it steps above this to be a quality popcorn-movie keeping the audience more than gripped.

There are some turns and twists away from the largely predictable plot, and the epic gun-showdown at the films end (reminiscent of The Untouchables) is a thrill-fest.

In general this is a movie that makes style over substance work in its favour.

Gangster Squad is an excellent guilty-pleasure that whilst not touching the classics of the gangster genre, is a perfect cinema movie that will be leave you satisfied.

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