Cert: 15 Runtime: 113 mins Director: Ruben Fleishcer Cast: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Emma Stone and Sean Penn
Every man wears a badge
So the concept of Gangster Squad was very exciting, it seemed to me like L.A Noire but on the big screen with a stellar cast. In 1949, Los Angeles and power-hungry mob boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) begins a relentless quest to take over the entire city. In order to stop him, Police Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) tasks gung-ho Sergeant John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) with creating the “Gangster Squad,” a secret group of unorthodox officers who will stop at nothing to bring Cohen down. Quickly becoming as ruthless as the very thugs they’re assigned to apprehend, O’Mara, Wooters (Ryan Gosling), Harris (Anthony Mackie), Kennard (Robert Patrick), Ramirez (Michael Pena), and Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi) begin destroying Cohen’s empire one operation at a time. But when Wooters falls for Cohen’s girl Grace (Emma Stone) and the gangster discovers the identities of his adversaries, the battalion must prepare for a war that will determine the fate of the city.Gangster Squad was a nice romp back to the days where detectives said funny lines, smoked indoors and held tommy guns. Here is a film that looks slick with a nice polish, a great ensemble cast and a story that has enough meat to it for us to chew on. Yet, people seem to be hating on it. Did they all expect another Untouchables? Sure, Gangster Squad has moments where the inspirations from past films peep through, but not once did this film try to be more than the sum of its means. Gangster Squad is a fun film, has thrilling moments and will entertain you. Josh Brolin plays Sgt. John O’Mara, a tough as nails cop who is willing to put his life on the line for truth and justice. This annoys his very pregnant wife, who seems ready to pop at any moment. She takes it upon herself to help form the team he needs in order to protect him. The team involves: Anthony Mackie, an officer who is deadly with a knife, Giovanni Ribisi, a smart wire tapper, Robert Patrick, an ace with a pistol and his protégé Michael Peña whose eager to learn. The last addition to the team is the young, hot and dangerous Ryan Gosling, who seems to have found himself entangled with the mob king, Cohen’s gal, played by Emma Stone.
There are obvious moments in the film where it tips its hat to predecessors like L.A. Confidential and the more obvious, The Untouchables. There is even a sequences involving a stairwell, although not as tense and more by the numbers shoot em up, the sequence is still one of the exciting pieces in the film. Both those films are more intricate with plot, characters and structure, by a mile. Gangster Squad doesn’t focus on stuff like that, it wants to thrill you. Which is why some sequences in which we are suppose to care whether our characters live or die don’t really pan out.It has a graphic novel feel to it, very film noir and for those who’ve played L.A. Noir, will get the same sense of style. While the film looks great in a lot of sequences, that same style has some short comings, mainly the use of CGI as movement for the camera. It’s the most noticeable, at least for me, in two scenes. With Josh Brolin in an elevator early on fighting two crooked guys and the second is when Ryan Gosling decides to pull his gun out in the middle of a club. The second scene in question is in slow motion and focuses mainly on his face, but the jarring background movement opposed to the steadiness of his face is just that, jarring and it takes you out of the film and makes you realize you are watching a film.Everyone plays their roles respectively well, even if the team seems one dimensional. Sean Penn hams it up in a role that demands him to overact. The make up may distract some, but it added to the character for me. He was the one who seemed to have the most fun with his role. A lot of people scream style over substance and this may be true in some cases. I for one never went into the film expecting writing of another calibre and thus I found myself enjoying it a tad more. There are some laughable scenes due to how cliché they are. One involves a character throwing their badge away into the water and another has the classic, character yelling another character’s name as they walk away, when that person stops and turns, no one says a word. Moments like these that are played out in numerous films make me yawn and roll my eyes. So go into Gangster Squad with an open mind, don’t expect greatness, just a fun ride.