Mickey Cohen makes his way back to the big screen.
Gangster Squad tells the story of the notorious mob boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). During the late 1940’s to early 1950s, Cohen tried to overthrow the city of Los Angeles with crime, drugs, gambling, and corruption but the Los Angeles Police Department had other plans. Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) assembled a small team of men lead by Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) in the hopes of saving his beloved city of Los Angeles.
Before actually starting my review, I want to point out that Gangster Squad was originally scheduled to be release in 2012, but after The Dark Knight Rises shooting in Colorado, the film was pulled and a scene was re-shot therefore delaying its release into 2013. The scene, which was originally shot involved a movie theater and is no longer in the film. Now on to my review…
The opening scene for Gangster Squad sets the tone of the film. It showcases a very angry looking Sean Penn portraying mob leader Mickey Cohen and it gets off to a very violent and bloody start. With that being said, this film is far more violent than I expected it to be from the trailers and marketing. I know this is a film about gangsters so I wasn’t expecting puppy dogs and daisies but seriously this movie is really bloody at times and might even be considered too over the top for some. I for one like to leave violence open to my imagination as I feel its a more effective measure to allow the audience member to picture in their head what happened rather than give them a visual image.
There are several scenes within this film that I felt Ruben Fleischer just got a bit carried away with. When Fleischer did the over the top moments in Zombieland, it worked well because of the type of movie that it was, but with a serious mob drama some of these moments felt a little unnecessary. Without spoiling anything, there is a scene within the film where Mickey Cohen orders his men to use a drill to kill someone. Now, just hearing the audio would be fine and give enough of a mental image, however, Fleischer decides that it needs to be shown complete with blood splatter sound effects. Did this scene take away from me enjoying the movie as a whole? No, but at the same time there were several scenes like this one within the film that went to the extreme when it didn’t need to. I just wanted to point this out as I see it becoming a bigger trend in more and more films nowadays.
As for the performances in the film, they are all really solid from Josh Brolin to Michael Peña. These notable actors work terrific as a team and really deliver the goods. Each actor Brolin, Patrick, Stone, Penn, Mackie, Peña, Ribisi, Gosling, and several others own their roles complete with each of them having their own unique personality and shtick that they kept implementing throughout the film. The standouts in the film were Sean Penn, Robert Patrick, and Emma Stone. These three stood out for me above the rest because I felt they played characters that I haven’t seen them play before or they took their roles to a new level that impressed me. But to be fair, I truly felt everyone was really stellar with the minor exception of Ryan Gosling’s voice (not him personally, just his voice) which was a tad bit ridiculous.
One thing that I really must point out about the film is the cinematography and set design. This film looked as if it was shot in the 1940s to 1950s. The look of the buildings and cars were dead on and even some of the wardrobes really stood out to me. It really showcased how much the look of Los Angeles changed from that era to today which is sad within itself since it was once such a clean and beautiful city.
Finally with all the minor nitpicks about Ruben Fleischer’s direction, I have to admit that he did a good job with the film as a whole. I give Fleischer a lot of credit as a director because he attempts to do different things. Zombieland was a brilliant horror comedy, 30 Minutes Or Less was a pretty horrible action comedy, and Gangster Squad was a pretty solid mob drama/action film, which makes his 2 for 3 which ain’t too shabby if I say so myself. I give the man credit for trying to have a wide array of films in his director catalog and think he is still someone who is worthy of keeping an eye on.
All in all, while Gangster Squad had a few shortcomings mainly due to some over the top moments both in violence and some scenes as a whole, the film is a solid mob drama and reminded me a lot of classic films such as The Untouchables and L.A. Confidential. This movie has some great performances from everyone involved, a well crafted screenplay, and really captures the essence of Los Angeles in the 1940s and 1950s. Its definitely a violent film but it is an entertaining and suspenseful one as well. I think if you are a big fan of mob dramas than this is one that you definitely will want to check out.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for Gangster Squad is a 7.5 out of 10.