Gangster Squad

Film, Thrillers
2 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(16user reviews)
Gangster Squad.jpg

In 2011, the computer game ‘LA Noire’ allowed players to live the life of a 1940s LAPD officer, drawing heavily on Polanski’s ‘Chinatown’ and the novels of James Ellroy to create a couch-potato-friendly version of life in seedy, postwar Hollywood. ‘Gangster Squad’ plays on public familiarity with the era – through the game, the books and the movies – to deliver a slick, very violent and entirely unconvincing recreation of the period: a movie inspired by a game inspired by a book vaguely based on real events.

The plot is essentially ‘The Untouchables’ goes west. Josh Brolin plays John O’Mara, the square-jawed, clean living cop tasked by a walrus in a tuxedo (Nick Nolte) to bring down the operation of gangland kingpin Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn, channelling Al Pacino in ‘Dick Tracy’) before the mob boss can fix a stranglehold on the city of angels. John forms a task force, hauling in interestingly named pal Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) who, unknown to O’Mara, is having an affair with Cohen’s squeeze Grace (Emma Stone).

The squad is rounded out by Giovanni Ribisi as the brainy family man with ‘dead meat’ tattooed on his forehead and Anthony Mackie as the most token black character since ‘Ghostbusters’ – which is okay, because he’s got a token Mexican (Michael Peña, who deserves better) and a token old-timer (Robert Patrick) to keep him company.

‘Zombieland’ director Ruben Fleischer keeps things moving at a breakneck pace, resulting in a handful of enjoyably pacy action sequences but lots of head-scratching plot holes. And despite some immersive period design, the visuals possess a bland, digital sheen – the climactic punch-up in a park looks like a nasty happy-slapping incident captured on a passer-by’s cameraphone.

Given the cast and subject matter, ‘Gangster Squad’ was never going to be a total washout. But it’s fatally ersatz, never coming close to recapturing the spirit and intensity of the films and novels it imitates, let alone the vibrant historical period it aims to evoke. 


Release details

Release date:
Friday January 11 2013
113 mins

Cast and crew

Ruben Fleischer
Will Beall
Sean Penn
Ryan Gosling
Emma Stone
Josh Brolin

Average User Rating

2.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
  • 4 star:3
  • 3 star:6
  • 2 star:6
  • 1 star:0
1 person listening

A pretty sub-standard gangster thriller. A massive cast (a planned epic chopped down by studio bosses, maybe?) and a Dick Tracey-style OTT villain played with rage by Sean Penn (who is actually as one dimensional as an Eastenders character) just add to the disappointment of what could have been great. Clearly a large budget was frittered, but with the likes of Broadwalk Empire on the small screens far more gritty and uncomfortably tense, this is a huge opportunity missed. It looks beautiful at times, but the boring car chases and Tommy-gun fights are as dull and uninspiring as dishwater. I enjoyed Robert Patrick, though, and Josh Brolin has fantastic screen presence, but the characters were paper thin. Last year’s Lawless was better, but even that wasn’t fabulous.

I really enjoyed this movie , i did'nt know that there was a computer game loosely based on it but i knew it was inspired on true events . if you enjoy blood and guts blowing up right up in front of your very eyes then this movie is for you if you dont enjoy shoot-em up movies then quietly find a romantic movie .

Efficient, fast-paced cops n gangsters actioner. Characterisation is determinedly 2D but Penn and Gosling have great screen charisma. Three and a half stars.

Two and a half if that was possible. It's throwaway, but I enjoyed Sean Penn in it regardless of his political opinions in real life. There is, as touched on above, a digital sheen to this movie, that sort of gives it an artificial bland quality, and makes it hard to care about the stereotype characters. It's too violent to be Dick Tracy, and not gritty enough to be Lawless, and not as well made as The Untouchables, so it's just gangsters by numbers. A fun two hours, but forgotten the second you leave the cinema.

Much better than I initially thought... Time Out has been too harsh this time. It's a good gangster movie packed with action and a great cast acting more than decently. It's not Good fellas but I was entertained.

John O'Sullivan - I would rate this film with 21/2 stars. The half star is given for the stunning photography. Sean Penn is an exceptional actor ... but he tries to go a bit too LARGE with his performance but creates a cartoon mobster. Emma Stone is as sexy as an Adison Lee ashtray. Josh Brolins truncated lower half makes me laugh and his bandy legs make me wanna buy him a pony for christmas. The soundtrack is a stomping affair worthy of a better film. I lay the blame squarely on the director.

Oh dear! This literally is a waste of a top calibre cast. This vacuous, empty excuse of a gangster film leaves one reeling that the filmmakers couldn't be bothered with a meaty, intelligent script. Instead we get a blatant rip-off of the "Untouchables" narrative, filled with one-dimensional characters that we couldn't give two hoots about, and a comic book villain in the guise of Sean Penn's Mickey Cohen. In the hands of another director (maybe De Palma) this could have been a gripping piece of cinema, instead handing over to the director of "Zombieland`" says it all. You'll sit down and watch it with a crash, bang and a wallop (Joel Silver-style), but in the end it's totally forgettable.

In short it is better than the review says but not by much. If you have nothing better to see and don't fancy seeing Les Mis its worth a try. Its OK but not great. You will probably enjoy it more if you see it in a bargain matinee or on Wednesday night with a friend with a well known mobile phone provider. The actors do deserve better though. A good 2 star or poor 3 star film take your pick.

Excellent movie.Great acting and Sean Penn did great.You will not fall asleep or be bored.Worth seeing.Theater clapped at the end of the movie where I was at.

Thought i be radical and actually see a film and the review it this site is fast turning into the Guardian's ginger stepson The film is awful very much like the witless Lawless.... never have so many reputations been harmed in the filming... go see Chinatown.. this is poo

I am happy to review this film without seeing it. I have no intention of paying anything that might enhance the rep of a once talented actor, but miserable excuse of a wife beater Sean Penn), who now feels entitled to tell the UK how to handle its international affairs, specifically The Falklands, For similar reasons I will not touch Argentinian wine. Amazingly it has not affected my view of Carlos Tevez - I still think he's a graceless yob.