Review: Gangster Squad
A group of vigilante cops in 1949 Los Angeles look to take back their city against a ruthless criminal warlord who controls everything – so it’s a lot like The Dark Knight Rises, except no one dresses up. And this is based on a true story.
Who’s in It?
Sean Penn plays the larger-than-life crime boss in Mickey Cohen, while Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Peña, Anthony Mackie and Nick Nolte are among those trying to stop him. And Emma Stone thankfully is in the film, offering the only shade of red on screen that isn’t blood.
A stylistic neo-noir film, director Ruben Fleischer embraces everything old-school Hollywood and crime while adding a few Matrix-esque elements for effects. This brutally violent and (yet?) entertaining film has all the classic clichés, though done to good effect. There is the slow-motion lighter ignited, the walking-away-from-explosion, the bullet riddled gangster, flailing while still firing off rounds, and plenty of corny phrases given an air of gravitas by the talented cast.
A thorough Hollywood gangster film delivering everything one would need, with stereotypes (the rogue cop, the gunslinger, etc) and tropes (there is a lot of variations of the defiant, “I’m a cop” quote) utilized to their fullest extent. The violence for the most part keeps you drawn into the film, and only occasionally might it get a little uncomfortable due to recent discussions about violence in film and guns in society.
Nonetheless, there is a much needed lightheartedness to the film, especially in the form of Ribisi and Peña, the latter of whom played a cop in the well-done End of Watch last fall and is just as funny here. The captivating Ms. Stone, who illuminates the screen every time she is on, is underused. An excessive body count, mythic men, and plenty of Tommy Gun action make this a film that satisfies as advertised, and if you’re buying what they’re selling, it’ll be hard not to enjoy.
Should You See It?
Yes, but not necessarily right away. It’s the awards season, so put this on the list, but it doesn’t top it. With a huge cast and big budget, this film isn’t going anywhere for a while.
“I am God, so you might as well swear to me,” says Mickey Cohen, moments before flexing his God-like power.