127 of 137 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2013
This film has received many bad reviews, but not because it's a bad movie. The truth is it's just not what people expected it to be. When you hear about a mafia movie, you expect an epic, inside look like with Goodfellas or Casino, but Gangster Squad is from the cops point of view and more like The Untouchables. Gangster Squad is based on a novel and is about an off the books LAPD operation aimed at bringing down Micky Cohen. In the 1940s, LA had a growing mafia problem on it's hands, and Mickey Cohen was set to become the next Al Capone. Unbeknownst for decades, the LAPD sent a group of cops, who didn't play by the book, after Cohen and by going after his business interests, they attempt to destroy his growing empire. The story is a great one, well deserving of a film adaptation, but what people didn't like was how it turned into an action film. This story has all the makings of an epic mafia drama, an you will be hard pressed to find a better performance than the one Sean Penn gives as Mickey Cohen. It was somewhat disappointing that they didn't get more into Cohen and his operation, but for what it was, it was a great film. As for the cast, it features some of Hollywood's best an brightest as old school meets the up and coming stars of the big screen. Every one from the stars to the ancillary characters give Oscar worthy performances that will be sadly overlooked. because of the nature of the film. If you're looking for a classic mob drama, you're going to be disappointed, but if you want to see an action packed cop movie with a mob element, then Gangster Squad is the film for you.
46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
"Gangster Squad" is an old-fashioned crime-fighting thriller set in the L.A. of the late 1940's, complete with period sets, a solid cast, and a suspenseful story. It claims to be based on a true story, but the average viewer probably won't worry about the history. The average viewer will be too busy wondering just how vicious the fight between two-fisted mobster Mickey Cohen and a group of vigilante cops is going to get, and who might get hurt in the process.
As the story opens, Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) is staking out his criminal turf, while most of the police force has been paid to look the other way. The police chief (a grizzled Nick Nolte) taps honest police sergeant John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) to set up an off-the-books gangster squad. With the help of his wife, O'Mara picks five other police officers prepared to take on Cohen and his mob. Among them is Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), O'Mara's army buddy, who also happens to have a very dangerous thing going with Cohen's moll (Emma Stone). The gangster squad gets to work, and Mickey Cohen soon becomes aware that his operation is being dismantled right under his nose. Cohen will come after the gangster squad, and their friends and families, setting up a big finale at an L.A. hotel.
The pacing of the movie is perhaps a little uneven, but its best moments make up for it. The gunfights are pretty exciting, and the movie makes the good guys worry about the collateral damage. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are quite good together, as in a different way are Josh Brolin and Mireille Enos, who plays his wife. The movie has an old-fashioned ending, but that is the point. Recommended.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2013
This is a fictionalized version of the story of LA gangster Mickey Cohen, excellently portrayed by Sean Penn who looks nothing like him. The action takes place in 1949/1950 and is not shot in black and white. Combat veteran Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) is asked to form a squad of elite men to take down Mickey Cohen, but not as cops, but as a gangsters hitting his places one by one.
John has a pregnant wife (Mireille Enos) who would rather leave town than have her husband take on the mobster. Saddled with the fact it won't happen, she helps her husband assemble a squad which includes Jerry (Ryan Gosling) a playboy cop who is seeing Mickey's girlfriend (Emma Stone). Emma Stone has played too many down to earth women to pull off a swanky mobster girl. She looked like a kid who was playing in her mommy's make-up box. Perhaps that was the genius of the film as she was to suppose to be a small town girl out of place.
Jerry uses a pick up line from 1941 comedy "Hold That Ghost" when he talks about playing post office. Again, was this bad writing or would have someone used a line from a film? At times the characters acted like they came out of "Sin City," stereotypes of themselves. Where do they get all these new Packards to shoot up?
The film had some good lines such as Sean Penn: "All good things must one day be burnt to the ground for insurance money." There is enough humor in the film to keep it from becoming dry.
Now the bad news is that Mickey Cohen was actually brought down by the IRS and not the gangster squad. His girlfriend Liz (not Grace)did three years because she wouldn't testify against him. So as far as facts go, rate this well below an Oliver Stone film. I liked the film, but not because there was any truth to it.
Parental Guide: F-bombs. No sex. Stripper with large pasties.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2013
Given the acting talent, I was pretty pumped up to see this film in the build up to its release, but generally mediocre reviews kept me away from the theatre. After getting around to seeing it now, I agree with the prevailing view that the movie is a decent piece of popcorn entertainment but that it seems content to settle for well-worn tropes and ultimately offers virtually nothing to distinguish it from a trough of other gangster films. The plot is a formulaic 'malevolent gangster versus vigilante cops' and the dialogue is a second-rate Hammett that at times is cringe-inducing. What makes it a worthwhile viewing experience in spite of those deficiencies are the frequent and well-executed action sequences, which, if a bit silly and over-the-top at times, are really fun to watch. Also, the film develops a solid atmosphere through well-executed sets, music, and wardrobe.
Most of the characters are fairly one-dimensional, which does not give the actors much room for nuance. Out of the leads, Sean Penn puts in the stand-out performance as mobster Mickey Cohen. He seems to relish playing a truly diabolical dude. Josh Brolin does pretty well as the simmering, itchy trigger fingered good guy, but I think Russell Crowe put in a more complex and interesting performance with a similar role in 'LA Confidential'. With little room for exploration given the source material, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone seem content to phone in their respective roles as suave, carefree partner and femme fatale.
Overall, if you're like me and you find it intrinsically enjoyable to watch gangsters fire tommy guns at one another, you won't regret putting in the two hours to watch this movie.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Los Angeles, 1949. Mobster Mickey Cohen has become the most powerful California mobster, and intends to continue spreading his influence.
Of course, there are a few uncorrupted cops who don't intend to let him do that, even if they have to step outside the law. And so we get "Gangster Squad," which has a dream cast and a stylish noirish look, but also fails to really impress with storytelling or character development. It's not dreadful, but it's not as good as it should be.
Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) rules the Los Angeles underworld, with the help of corrupt cops and judges. After saving a girl from some of Cohen's thugs, Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) is called in by the police chief with a very special mission: destroy Cohen's criminal empire, and send him packing from LA. O'Mara's pregnant wife Connie (Mireille Enos) isn't pleased by this.
With Connie's help, O'Mara quickly assembles his "gangster squad" -- a strong street detective (Anthony Mackie), a wire-tapper (Giovanni Ribisi), a gunslinger who targets gangsters (Robert Patrick) and his partner (Michael Peña). They're also joined by Wootens (Ryan Gosling), who is having a clandestine affair with Cohen's mistress/etiquette coach Grace Faraday (Emma Stone).
And after a little training, the Gangster Squad begins taking down Cohen's empire -- they attack casinos, kill Cohen's men, and basically wreck all his business. But when Cohen deduces who they are and what they're doing, he decides to strike back.
"Gangster Squad" is a decent movie, but it should be a truly brilliant one. It has a talented all-star cast including Penn, Gosling and Brolin, a lot of flashy gangster violence and sleaze, and it's directed by the guy who brought us "Zombieland." But somehow... just somehow... it doesn't quite gel as a film.
Ruben Fleischer gives postwar L.A. a pulpy, glitzy look that grows more gritty and rough as the film unwinds. He also seems to be having a lot of fun with all the blasting guns, burning money and dramatic death scenes, such as when one man is thrown in a pool and shot.
But there isn't really anything memorable during the scenes of vigilante justice. The squad just bursts in and blast away unnamed mooks, then moves on to the next target. Some parts are so painfully Hollywood that it burns -- consider the ditchwater-dull relationship between Wootens and Grace, which seems to just be in the movie because we needed a romance between two hot young people.
The movie also tries to bring up the moral aspect of vigilantism (Keeler says that they're no different from Cohen) but immediately drops it without saying yea or nay. Seriously, don't do that. It just makes the story seem shallow.
Fortunately, this is somewhat compensated for by the awesome casting. Sean Penn is all wiry sneering and snarling as Mickey Cohen, a sadistic thug who believes it's his "destiny" to rule the western US. Penn is not in the movie very often, but he brings an electric energy to whatever scenes he is in.
Brolin is also excellent as a soldier-turned-cop who hasn't quite lost his urge to fight for what he believes in, and who wants to expunge the corruption from the City of Angels. Ryan Gosling does a passable job, even though his whole role is basically to romance Stone. And while the rest of the cast isn't fleshed out as much, we get some excellent low-key performances from Mackie, Patrick, Nick Nolte, Enos and Ribisi.
"Gangster Squad" should really be a much better movie than it is, but the solid acting from a great cast keeps it afloat. Worth seeing, but not necessarily keeping.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2015
A movie with an identity crisis if ever there was one. Trying too hard to force a noire atmosphere with a corny Dragnet voice-over & shallow stock characters, the film has more of a Marvel comic and perhaps even a Bugsy Malone feel than any sort of credible tale of corruption & vice in 1940's L.A. The linear and utterly predictable plot, the wooden acting, laughable shoot-outs and the lacklustre script all combine to produce a deeply unsatisfying experience.
A real vacuous nothing of a film, so bad that it would probably have had more substance if done Manga/anime style.
20 of 28 people found the following review helpful
This is a violent, bloody R-rated territorial squabble set in the late 1940s between the Los Angeles Police Department and the Mickey Cohen/Bugsy Siegel East Coast Mob. This humor-laced (and bullet-ridden) outing pits East Coast gangsters against ...hmm... not really a Dirty Dozen, more like a Slightly Soiled Six-Pack, of cops who have been anonymously recruited to run organized crime out of Los Angeles.
This is a highly fictionalized story inspired by real events. We see:
* Sean Penn ("Milk") is Mickey Cohen, a former professional boxer with a nasty temper, brutal and merciless. I must say, Penn has become a caricature of himself....and he has NEVER learned to enunciate!
* Nick Nolte ("Warrior") is Police Chief Parker, the guy determined to keep Cohen and his cohorts from setting up shop in LA.
* Josh Brolin ("W.") is Sgt. John O'Mara, an Army vet, now a cop for the LAPD. He is hand-picked for the job, and he in turn hand picks his own squad (with some help from his wife).
* Ryan Gosling ("Drive") is Sgt. Jerry Wooters, who first declines the "honor" of serving on the team, but then he gets mad... (with the Hollywoodland real estate development sign shining in the background.)
* Emma Stone ("The Amazing Spider-Man") is Grace, a favorite of Cohen's; Sgt. Wooters likes her, too.... Vintage clothing looks good on this gal!
* Robert Patrick ("Trouble With the Curve") is Max, otherwise known by this little gang as "Hopalong" because a six-gun is his weapon of choice.
* Michael Peña ("End of Watch") is Navidad, who nominates himself to join up when Max is recruited.
* Giovanni Ribisi ("Avatar") is Conway, a technician who is invited into the project because he understands telecommunications...and our geek accepts because he would like to be a hero to his son.
* Anthony Mackie ("The Hurt Locker") is Coleman, the only law in his tough neighborhood. He just wants to stay OUT of Burbank!
* Yvette Tucker ("Me Again") does a perfectly splendid turn as Carmen Miranda, complete with a towering headgear of fruit, singing at Slapsy Maxie's nightclub during a raid.
This shoot-em-up is almost non-stop gunfire interspersed with blowie uppie stuff. There isn't as much profanity as usual, but the vehicular mayhem is sorta fun with those big old 40s vintage cars swaying and lurching around corners.
Be sure to suspend disbelief, but be prepared to laugh more often than you might expect. Despite all the blood and gore, the screening audience was mildly entertained, and that's what it's all about, ...isn't it? ...Maybe? Amazon will notify me when this is available on DVD so I can notify my folks on JayFlix.net.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2013
This is a great Gangster movie, in the league with movies like L.A. Confidential, Mulholland Falls, and The Untouchables. Josh Brolin is great as Sergeant O'Mara, the leader of the Gangster Squad; not to mention Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen. A really great gangster movie.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2013
Just what u expect when u rent it. Ok plot good actors some bad guys and a hero or two
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2014
What a stellar cast we have in Gangster Squad. Sean Penn plays 1940’s gangster Mickey Cohen-a murderous real life thug and ladies man whose girlfriends included Tempest Storm, Candy Bar and Beverly Hills. In the movie his lady friend is Emma Stone who is drop dead beautiful in slinky evening gowns. Ryan Gosling is effective in an under stated role as one of the squad members. Josh Brolin, Michael Pena, Giovanni Ribisi and Robert Patrick are other name actors and squad members. What a shame to have so much talent squandered on a film so lacking in dramatic interest. It isn’t a terrible movie but with such a fine cast we really expect a film to match the actors. Other films set in post war L.A. have been done much better, see L.A. Confidential or Chinatown for comparison.
Penn as Cohen-a notorious gangster who made headlines and had a fan base in real life-opens the film by pulling another gangster apart using cables and two cars. This set the tone for the film. Irrational violence is done with expert professionalism by director Ruben Fleischer. The culminating battle has the cops of the Gangster Squad absurdly facing off against Cohen’s thugs with Tommy guns at a range of 40 feet.
The romance between the gangster’s moll (Stone) and the young copper (Gosling) doesn’t make much sense either. I am an Emma Stone fan boy and the more screen time she gets the better I like it but I can still recognize that the moll/cop romance is stupid. Sometimes we suspend our disbelief, often in fact. But we want a reward greater than stilted writing and irrational violence. Director Rubin Fleischer also directed the very entertaining Zombieland, also with Emma Stone, so we know he can make excellent films.
The producers must be faulted for entrusting the script to first time writer Will Beall. With a budget of $60 million they could have afforded enough talent to make us love, like or at least be interested in the characters. The best developed and most likeable character is the very minor character of the wife of squad leader Josh Brolin. She has some good lines in the very few minutes she has on screen. Sadly, she is the only one who does.
The disappointing Gangster Squad rates a subpar two saw blades. Fans of mediocre cops and gangsters films will still enjoy it as will Emma Stone fans. But this is far from the best of the genre and a tragic waste of a top shelf cast.
Gangster Squad is rated R for lots of violence, some of it pretty gross. It has pulled in a thin $31 million so far and might struggle to get the producers money back. That should teach them a lesson. Make better movies.