Directed by Ruben Fleischer and loosely based on Paul Lieberman‘s seven-part series based on true events, Gangster Squad is set in Los Angeles in 1949 and follows a special task force known as the Gangster Squad – consisting of Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin), Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie), Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi), and Max Kennard (Robert Patrick) – who have been recruited to dismantle the crime empire of the ruthless gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) and force him out of LA.
To say that the film is based on a novel based on the true events, it seems that Gangster Squad is far from realistic (from small changes such as the squad consisting of only white males to much bigger changes such as Emma Stone’s character Grace Faraday not even existing). I don’t know much about the real story behind Cohen to go into this any more, but from what I’ve read online it seems that his life was very different from the one we are presented with.
What I can say for certain is that Gangster Squad is an extremely glamorised re-telling. Everything from the costumes to the use of colour looks appealing, and it is this style and feel to the film that kicks it up a notch, albeit the quality that takes away the focus from its flaws. As a fairly average gangster drama, its appearance is what gets the extra half a star from me.
From the director of Zombieland, as well, there’s a lot of great gory moments, which also adds to the films aesthetic appeal. Compared to this month’s release of Django Unchained it’s nothing, but it the killings are certainly made a lot more interesting with the use of exaggerated violence and pools of blood.
What really makes this film, however, is the cast – Josh Brolin is fearless as the lead Sergeant in the squad and he has some fantastic fighting scenes which almost make you fear him yourself; Ryan Gosling is charming as ever but whilst he doesn’t give his best performance he works great in the role; Emma Stone isn’t in the film enough for my liking but she looks stunning in her role (and it’s great that we get to see her and Gosling’s chemistry once again!); and Sean Penn is pretty badass, fitting the role superbly.
These qualities combined set Gangster Squad aside from your average gangster film, but only slightly. It’s not brilliant, but it’s certainly worth a watch, maybe even more than once.