It’s 1949. The war is over, and yet Los Angeles’ returned soldiers turned cops can’t seem to stop fighting, thanks to a Mafia boss taking control of the entire west coast - starting with their beloved LaLaLand.
Annoyingly teetering on the edges of film noir, you wish ‘Zombieland’ director Ruben Fleisher would just make us his mind already. 'Gangster Squad' seems to settle more into the ‘pulp’ mould (perhaps next to the one that made Sean Penn’s prosthetic schnoz).
Penn plays Mickey Cohen, a dangerous and volatile gangster who likes to feed his victims to the wolves behind the Hollywoodland sign while running dope and whores on the ground. But that’s all small potatoes next to what he really has his sights set on. Good guy cop John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) is assigned an off-the-books job by the Chief of Police (Nick Nolte) to assemble a small team to take down Cohen and his stronghold on Los Angeles by any means necessary. Morals, ethics and everything between is blurred where these men are concerned - men that believe the end justifies the mean - including one who believes sleeping with the enemy's girl (Emma Stone) is worth the risk.
GANGSTER SQUAD - TRAILER
A supreme waste of talent, with a dream roster of actors including Michael Pena, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick and Anthony Mackie, where not one of them is given a shining moment - even Emma "can do no wrong" Stone and Ryan "so freakin' talented I wanna cry" Gosling don’t quite cut the mustard, with only their undeniable chemistry holding it together. It’s Penn and Penn alone who deserves the accolades, and that’s only for the sheer amount of enjoyment delivered in every one of his scenes (behind that prosthetic nose of course). Penn is clearly having way too much fun with his megalomaniac Cohen. With this cast at Fleisher's disposal, the film is nowhere near as ambitious as it should have been, because unlike its characters, it plays everything by the book.
While ‘Gangster Squad’ has its share of laughs, violence and brutal moments, it ultimately falls short of expectations from its audience. It’s easily digestible and nicely superficial, but not one that stays with you for long. As you walk out of the cinema, you're unable to shake the feeling that you’ve seen it all before - perhaps in 1987 when it was called ‘The Untouchables’.