Gangster Squad

This generation now has its version of The Untouchables!

After being rescheduled due to the Aurora Shooting back in July, Director Ruben Fleischer's period gangster drama finally graces the silver screen. As are my feelings with the similarily-themed The Untouchables, this is a stylish, mixed-bag of a crime drama.

In the late 1940's, Jewish mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) runs the city of Los Angeles. Feeling that he is losing control of the City of Angels, Police Chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte) assigns respected police officer John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) to an off-the-books police unit created for the purpose of taking down Mickey Cohen. John uses this chance to recruit the police officers that fill the title characters: playboy Jerry Wooters, (Ryan Gosling) old-hand Max Kennard, (Robert Patrick) his younger prodigy Navidad Ramirez, (Michael Pena) street-wise detective Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie) and tech-savvy Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi).

The Gangster Squad begin disrupting Mickey Cohen's operations while Mickey struggles to find out who is responsible. During this time, conflicts arise between John and his pregnant wife Connie (Mireille Enos) about the dangers of the job and Jerry and Mickey's girlfriend Grace Faraday (Emma Stone) who begin a dangerous affair.

There is nothing in this film that hasn't been seen before, yet that doesn't make Gangster Squad all bad. The Gangster Squad is made up of cliches and all the actors bring their A-Game to these cliches. The stand-out of the Gangster Squad is Robert Patrick who really embellishes the role given and has lot of fun with it. Ryan Gosling chooses an interesting accent which initially comes off as annoying, but throughout the course of the film, the annoyance died down. Josh Brolin's John is tough as nails and doesn't offer a lot except for his determination to bring Mickey and his empire down. I will say that, although there is narration by Josh Brolin, it was welcome that the narration was sparse as Josh Brolin's tone seemed muted and not something I would want to hear throughout the film.

Which brings me to what I consider the weak links of the story. Emma Stone's Grace easily falls for Jerry, but their affection for one another comes very quick and lacks any spark or chemistry. They seemed more like friends than a real hot couple that skirts the dangers of Mickey Cohen. And speaking of Mickey Cohen, Sean Penn seems to be in a completely different film than the rest of the actors. His accent comes off as if he is struggling with it, and his emotions are much darker and violent than scenes that involve the Gangster Squad. I really enjoy Sean Penn and am glad to have seen him tackle this role, but it really doesn't gel as it should.

The comparisons with The Untouchables are very blatant and in your face. Everything from the stylized setting to the cliched character who you can pretty much tell will die to the facts being very misconstrued, this reminded me so very much of the Brian DePalma/David Mamet classic: The Untouchables. This isn't a bad thing, as I truly enjoy The Untouchables and overall, I enjoyed Gangster Squad as well.

The snappy dialogue comes doesn't fire on all cylinders like a David Mamet script and director Ruben Fleischer occasionally adds touches to liven up the scenes; especially gunfights, which he sometimes chooses to slow down and use some CGI along with the slow motion to add enhancements to what should already be action-packed scenes.

I love film noir and films set during this period, so I might be a bit biased when rating this film. As enjoyment, this is a solid, if uneven affair. A great cast and some good locations really push this film as a recommendation.



  1. Slightly more positive review than most I've read but a lot of the same issues are brought up. Even from the trailers I could guess that Emma Stone was miscast, a shame since Iike her a lot. I'll give it a run on video.

  2. Yeah, the movie is no L.A. Confidential. There is some fun to be had, especially with the supporting players. Probably worth a rent. Nothing earth-shattering.