Inspired by a true story, director Ruben Fleischer’s blood and bullet soaked pulp fiction piece almost misses the mark. But due to a strong cast, and a pace which makes one’s head spin, it instead is a gritty guilty pleasure which leaves no stone unturned.
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gossling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Sean Penn
Producers: Dan Lin, Kevin McCormick, Michael Tadross
Screenwriters: Will Beall
Rating: R for strong violence, language
Running time: 113 minutes
Release date: January 11, 2013
The story is loosely based on an off-the-record LAPD squad which, after assembling in the late 1940’s, spent the next decade cutting a wide swath of crimson through the criminal underworld. Kicking off the stellar job of casting, Nick Nolte plays grizzled Police Chief William Parker who tasks no-nonsense war veteran police Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) with assembling the clandestine team. Brolin, looking like a natural in his fedora, could have stepped out of any of the crime buster capers that were all the rage in the 40s and 50s. O’Mara adds Doey-eyed Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), and the rest of the mixed bag posse of bizarre characters (played by Robert Patrick, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Pena, and Anthony Mackie).
Chief Parker is fed up with arch bad guy,Brooklynborn arch gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), who grumbles his lines in one scene chewing scene after the next. Cohen has the town on lockdown, and is given a pass by law enforcement, politicians, and judges, most of whom he has on his slithery payroll.
The action is kicked off when members of the team start to shake up Cohen’s various illicit and profitable businesses, and it doesn’t let up. Lurching from one ferociously kinetic shootout to the next, the blood splattered gunplay is rather over-the-top, and combined with some of the tongue-in-cheek dialogue, soon moves the film into pretty satisfying camp territory. Had there been a cast with less gravitas and chops, this would not have been possible.
As the bodies start to flop left and right, it doesn’t take long to see that things are on an inevitable trajectory between the respective forces arrayed against each other. The final dust-up takes place at the Park Plaza Hotel, but any correlation to similar films (such as The Untouchables) isn’t at play here. There aren’t any glimpses into the inner workings of institutionalized graft and corruption, and the characters probably won’t be remembered long after leaving the theater. However, taken on it’s own merits, Gangster Squad is an enjoyable period action/thriller that will have audiences reeling from it’s sheer explosiveness.
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