Movie Review for Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad   

Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Giovanni Ribisi, Nick Nolte, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena, Robert Patrick


Directed by Ruben Fleischer


Rated: R

Run Time: 113 mins

Genre: Drama/ Crime/ Action


Opens January 11th


By Lisa Minzey of The Reel


Hey Phoenix Film fans! Opening this week is the highly anticipated film “Gangster Squad” starring Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Emma stone. If you recall the release date was originally scheduled for last summer but was pushed back after scene depicting violence in a movie theater was pulled from the final cut and had to be re-shot.

Inspired by a true story, the backdrop of the film is set in Los Angeles circa 1949. Gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) moved west from Chicago, claiming the city of angels as his town. War hero and now L.A.P.D. Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) is a rare type of law man; he’s been able to withstand the temptation of being bought off by Cohen’s gang or any other type of criminal. Instead, he hunts them down renegade style, which lands him frequently in hot water with his department Police Chief.  O’Mara refused to stand by and look the other way while corruption and mayhem over take the city he loves.

O’Mara’s antics eventually caught the eye of the Los Angeles Police Commissioner, Chief Parker (Nick Nolte), who recruits him to form his own secret unit to take the city back from Cohen and any other criminal causing havoc. He is allowed to choose anyone he wants provided everything is kept off the books. Sgt. O’Mara accepts and with the help of his wife, carefully selects the men who will help bring down Cohen’s crime syndicate. His first choice is Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), a man who knows the city like an Indian Guide. Sgt. Wooters declines as he wants nothing to do with Cohen until he falls for the mobster’s latest arm candy, Grace Faraday (Emma Stone). The rest of the team is made of the best of the best renegades. From the colored force is a man who has real talent with a knife, Officer Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie); a man that is the fast gun west of the Mississippi, Officer Max Kennard (Robert Patrick); former military intelligence, Officer Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi) and the dark horse contender by way of default (he is Officer Kennard’s trainee), Officer Navidad Ramirez (Michael Peña).

Needless to say, the first couple of sting operations didn't go as well as they thought, but once they found their in by means of putting a bug in Cohen’s home, they were on  winning steak. The more they intercepted Cohen’s men, the angrier Cohen would become. They need to take down Cohen before he discovers their real identities but with the amount of people the mobster has on his payroll, each day that passes puts each man and their loved ones in grave danger.

This film was an intriguing choice for Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) to take on as his background is heavily comedy concentrated. From the first scene of Sean Penn up at the Hollywoodland sign, torturing a man who questioned Mickey Cohen’s authority, the viewer is taken on an incredulous, violence filled journey through the streets ofLos Angeles, in a film noir style. Although the violence is quite prevalent and showcased throughout the film, it is strangely mixed with comedic elements, taking it from what could be an exceptionally strong, gritty crime drama such as “L.A. Confidential” but interlaces the comedic element bringing a “Dick Tracy” feel to the film. With one of the pivotal scenes having to be re shot after the theater shooting tragedy, I wonder how much of the film had to be re-cut to make it less harrowing? The performances were quite compelling to watch, but the way the film swings from serious to comedic, almost cheapens the message and heart of the story – a war hero trying to do right for his family, city and country by making hard choices to eliminate evil. The set design, costumes, props and dialogue are spot on for the era which is rather enjoyable to watch. Be sure to check “Gangster Squad” out when it opens in theaters nationwide starting Friday January 10, 2013.