Gangster Squad (2013) Directed by Ruben Fleischer. Starring: Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. IMDB says: “A chronicle of the LAPD’s fight to keep East Coast Mafia types out of Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s.”

Set in the seductive 1940’s LA, the glamour of the locale is quickly interrupted by a gory display made possible by the city’s most violent and dangerous criminal, Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn.) The movie goes on to constantly balance these opposite spectrums, shifting between the alluring LA lifestyle and the constant fear associated with keeping that status quo. A group of off the record detectives sent to take down Cohen’s organization quickly become the guys you are absolutely rooting for to get the job done. Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) works the best when he gets right in the thick of it, honing in on a blend of brutal violence and deserved comedy.

The movie hits all the right notes of what makes a great ensemble piece. The cast is terrific, featuring powerhouse leads like Josh Brolin, Sean Penn and Baby Goose, as well as a league of brilliant supporting actors you are always looking to see more of (Michael Pena, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, and Robert Patrick.) The only turd in the punch bowl is Emma Stone who, despite giving a solid performance, just seems a little too young for the rest of the crowd. In any event, it was a dream cast for a tale like this one and everyone pulls their weight and looks like they are having a blast doing it. Their enjoyment translates off the screen and into the audience, causing moments of glee and laughter as we follow the good vs. evil story.

The movie plays well as a pulpy crime story. The over the top villain Mickey Cohen makes you nervous that a sadistic, power-hungry man like him once existed, and thankful for the cops and non-cops brought in to help take him out. Gosling and Stone share one of the romantic subplots that isn’t the most exciting thing in the film, but becomes more important to the plot as the movie progresses. Brolin’s character of the hot-headed detective is reminiscent of Russel Crowe’s character in LA Confidential (a superior film, but not exactly striving for the same goals either.)

Overall, Gangster Squad is a film that gets the job done. It’s a little light in the drama department, but shows off a really talented cast in a very entertaining film. Audiences are unlikely to be disappointed by anything major here and might even have a few surprises thrown at them along the way.


Gangster Squad is out in theaters nationwide January 11th.