DVD Review: Gangster Squad

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Inspired by a true story, and based on a book by Paul Lieberman, Gangster Squad is a sleek and stylish, but ultimately predictable, mobster-cop flick.

Set in sepia tone, the first few minutes of this noir film shows just how much the city of LA has deteriorated. The city’s police and its politicians are all in the never-ending pocket of ruthless, power-crazy mafia don Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), who doles out brutality without a second thought.

Deciding to put an end to the corruption, honest cop John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) starts recruiting an undercover, off-the-books team to secretly destroy Cohen.

Enter Sergeant Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), and a host of other miss-matched personalities; Central Avenue black beat cop Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie); old cowboy sharpshooter Max Kennard (Robert Patrick); eavesdropping techy Conwell Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi); and Latino novice Navidad Ramirez (Michael Pena).

Acting-wise, Brolin holds steady as the man who seems to be carrying the world on his shoulders, though he is regularly upstaged by Gosling with a cool, off-handed approach. Sean Penn as Cohen is just downright scary – he nails the heart-piercing, droopy-eyed stare – but without such a fine cast of actors behind it, this movie would be little more than a high-gloss caper.

The only other good thing about Gangster Squad is how cinematographer Ruben Fliescher got the trappings of the 1940s spot on. The coupes and sedans, the people, the Hollywood stucco, the band singers in neon-lit clubs and Mafioso bars – it’s just about as good as it gets from that point of view.

Unfortunately, those looking for the depth and complexity of the best of the genre are in the wrong place, but take Gangster Squad for what it is and it’s not a bad way to spend an evening. But be warned – it’s not as deep, or as smart, as it thinks it is.

 

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