Gangster Squad

Inspired by the story of Mickey Cohen and his quest to become the king of LA’s crime world, Gangster Squad portrays a 1949 Los Angeles caught in a war between Cohen and the LA police department.

While it may not be historically accurate (Cohen went to jail for tax evasion, not murder), this film is still fun to watch. In the movie’s defense, it does pepper the film with fact based moments and characteristics such as Cohen being a former boxer (the real life Cohen even got a shot at the champion). The writing overall is well done with some great dialog (which has some one-liner moments but nothing overtly cheesy). The story centers around a police unit that is formed to bring down Cohen using his own guerilla style tactics – destroy Cohen and leave the badges at home.

Aesthetically, the film is beautiful, some great costumes here from the 40-50s era along with at LA backdrop from that time period to boot. My stepfather is a big car guy and he loved the authenticity of the vehicles in the film. The pacing is good with some great moments of dialog. The action gets pretty intense sometimes, especially the introduction scene with Mickey Cohen ending a rival in his mob organization in a not-to-subtle manner involving 2 cars, the victim and some chains.

The acting is top-notch. Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen is a brilliant casting move. He puts in a intense, calculated performance, primo Sean Penn. Josh Brolin measures up nicely as his arch-nemesis and the leader of the squad sent to destroy him. Ryan Gosling plays the smooth friend of Brolin’s character and turns in a too-cool-for-school kind of guy who has some interesting emotional moments as well. The lineup is rounded out by tight performances from talent that includes Emma Stone, Giovanni Ribisi, Nick Nolte, and Michael Pena.

Worth catching in the theaters if you can, if not definitely catch it on video.

reviewed by Sean McKnight