GANGSTER SQUAD review by Ronnie Malik

GANGSTER SQUAD review by Ronnie Malik


Director: Ruben Fleischer

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

Rating: B-

“Gangster Squad” tells a tale about a group of off-the-beaten-track undercover agents that single handedly take down powerful mob boss Mickey Cohen and his entire crime organization. Set in California, this stylish swanky looking film brings to life the Los Angeles of the late 1940s. The film noir look of the movie brings colors and background sets that are wonderful and set the mood and expectation that a great gangster film is about to unfold on the big screen.

Recruited by the chief of police to rid the City of Angels of Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) and his goons, Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) is a World War II hero trapped between his sense of duty and his obligations to his family. O’Mara hand picks six under-the-radar cops to build the dream team that will bring justice to a city overrun with prostitution, drugs, and corruption brought about by the mob boss from Chicago. Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) is an unwilling policeman more interested in pursuing Grace (Emma Stone) but ultimately decides to join O’Mara in his crusade when he witnesses an innocent child killed at the hands of Cohen’s assassins. Officer Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie) is a knife wielding crackerjack and Officer Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi) is the tech wizard planting listening devices in Cohen’s house to get the scoop on what the crime leader is up to next. Officer Max Kennard (Robert Patrick), a sharp shooter with hands that move faster than lightning, along with his protégé, rookie officer Navidad Ramirez (Michael Pena) completes the crime fighting outfit. Together the six man group sets out to destroy Cohen’s business and run him out of town, or even better yet get him thrown in jail.

Holding the film together with his amazing screen presence, Brolin is great as the strong silent lawman trying to bring justice to his home town. The supporting cast is solid but is not given enough of their own moments to really shine individually. Sadly, the romance between Grace and Jerry is undeveloped and very unconvincing leaving no emotional ties for audiences to grasp. Just about the only thing Emma Stone brings is eye candy from all the classic fashion she gets to wear and show off. Playing Mickey Cohen, Sean Penn does not come off as an intelligent and savvy business man on the other side of the law but more as a psychotic lunatic that won’t stop screaming his lines. Penn’s performance almost comes across as comical and reminded me more of a character you might have seen in the cartoonish version of the movie “Dick Tracy.”

It will be very easy to spot bits and pieces of other gangster movies in this copy cat film directed by Ruben Fleischer. Don’t get me wrong – the film is not horrible. “Gangster Squad” is paced nicely and has enough action to hold your attention. It just lacks the luster and intrigue of classic movies like “L.A. Confidential, “The Untouchables”, “Road to Perdition, or the ultimate gangster movie, “The Godfather” – great crime dramas that you can sink your teeth into over and over again. Extremely predictable from beginning to end, “Gangster Squad” offers up plenty of raining bullets, slow motion violence, a few tense moments, a bit of humor, and a hand-to-hand combat scene at the end that should leave mobster movie fans satisfied until something bigger and better comes along.

GANGSTER SQUAD is set to hit theaters on January 11, 2013.

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