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Film Review: Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad is set in Los Angeles, 1949. The city has become a criminal playground controlled by heroin kingpin Micky Cohen (Sean Penn). In a bid put LA back into the hands of the law police Sgt. John O’Mara (James Brolin) is called upon to head up a team of off-grid, covert police officers – the ‘Gangster Squad Unit.’

Sean Penn – Mickey Cohen
James Brolin – Sgt. John O’Mara
Ryan Gosling – Sgt. Jerry Wooters
Emma Stone – Grace Faraday
Nick Nolte – Bill Parker

Dead Good rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Gangster Squad
Certificate (UK): 15

If the intention of Gangster Squad was to sell you the aesthetic of a stylish and vibrant Los Angeles in 1949, I’m sold.

Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland and 30 Minutes or Less) captures the glitz and glamour we associate with post-war LA and it is a stunning thing to watch. Time and detail were given to the more violent scenes, which fans of the genre will enjoy.

Skillfully edited shoot outs and actor-mounted cameras provide excitement and tension throughout.

The costumes, stunning styling, Sean Penn apparently having a ball playing the cartoonish villan Mickey Cohen and witty one-liners made the film very watchable.

But despite the assembly of a good cast, the plotting feels a little patchy at times and some of the characters seem as though they have been pulled straight out of a ‘Screen Gangster Handbook’: Jerry the wisecracking ladies man, Micky the young, greedy gangster…

Ryan Gosling, whose past performances I have loved in Blue Valentine and Drive, doesn’t shine as Sgt. John O’Mara’s right hand man, Sgt. Jerry Wooters and his screen-relationship with Emma Stone simply fails to ignite.

Our verdict:
Gangster Squad beautifys a lawless Los Angeles. Indulgent and violent scenes of well-edited gun slinging action, classic one-liners and Sean Penn relishing his bad-guy role make this a very entertaining but not a classic Gangster genre movie.

Watch it if you like… Dick Tracy and The Untouchables.

Reviewed by: Yewande Odunubi

If you love the Gangster movies, check out our Top 10 Movie Gangsters of all time.

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