Review: Gangster Squad

Written by: Dee Pilgrim

If you like your men to be real men yet your violence to be of the cartoon variety then Gangster Squad will be right up your machine gun-toting alley.

However, if you’re expecting this written by numbers account of 1940’s crime boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) to have any depth or realism, think again – this is simply gangsters with guns shooting and blowing stuff up, with very little thought given to character or plot progression.

Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen in Gangster Squad

Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen

On the one hand we have ex-fighter Cohen and his hoodlums aiming to take over control of all the prostitution, numbers running and drugs in LA. On the other we have a covert bunch of policemen brought together by ramrod straight cop Josh Brolin and veteran police chief Nick Nolte to bring Cohen down by any means. Cue extreme violence, blood and gore from scene one, watched with a certain amount of bemusement by reluctant cop Sgt Wooters (Ryan Gosling) who is intent on staying firmly on the sidelines until he falls for Cohen’s moll (Emma Stone).

So far, so noir?  Well, actually no because everything from the action to the characters is painted with such a broad brush you really can’t take any of it seriously.  This is apparently based on a true story but looks and feels like it has been written by two teenagers fixated on having the camera linger on spent gun cartridges bouncing in slow motion on the floor.  Meanwhile, Brolin, Nolte and Penn mumble and growl their way through scenes making much of the dialogue impenetrable. Not that it matters, you soon get the gist of what’s going on – let’s shoot all the bad guys and clean up the City of Angels.

If you want a film about good guys going after the hoods written with real intelligence and insight go watch The Untouchables – after this cartoonish caper, its gritty realism will blow you away.

Author: Dee Pilgrim

Dee always knew she wanted to make her living from writing and so trained as a journalist before working for a variety of music and women’s titles including Sounds, Company, Cosmopolitan, Ms London, New Woman, and Girl About Town. After going freelance she concentrated on celebrity interviews and film, theatre, music and restaurant reviews. Her love of film goes back to her very first cinema experience at the age of five when her mother took her to see Bambi. She cried. At one time she was the Film Editor for NOW magazine and also the secretary for the film section of the Critics’ Circle and the celebrity coordinator for its annual film awards’ event. She has written a number of books for teenagers through Trotman Publishing, including five Real Life Guides to vocational careers (including Carpentry, Plumbing and Catering), and also three books on Real Life Issues (Money, Bereavement and Self Harm). Her favourite film is still Bladerunner.

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