Customer Reviews: Gangster Squad (Blu-ray+DVD)
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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.
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"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.
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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.
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on April 29, 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.
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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.
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on May 17, 2013
"The Gangster Squad" based on a TRUE story (the "Hat Squad"--see " Mullholland Falls" which also featured Nick Nolte, then as the leader of the group) taking place in post WWII Los Angeles when the Gangster/Racketeer Mickey Cohen climbed to the top of the heap in the early 50's. Corruption was not new to City Leaders, Policemen and Union men however to step outside the law to FIGHT it was.....enter Sgt John O'Mara (Josh Brolin)--former decorated war veteran, hardened by his years in the war and a no-nonsense ethic he applies to his detective position with the LAPD; Sgt Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) content with getting along to insure a pension in 20 years, undergoing a slow realization that in order to enforce the law sometimes one must BREAK the law; Giovanni Ribisi (excellently cast) as the techno-geek officer who improvises listening devices to tap into Cohen's secret plans ; Michael Pena as a rookie cop eager to join up and be part of this team; and Robert Patrick the elder lawman who still holsters an old 6 shooter but with deadly accuracy (obviously not a fan of LAPD's snub .38 service weapon) We now have the ingredients of Superhero Crime Fighters without the necessity of Miranandizing suspects or calling for the paddy wagon to arrest lawbreakers! Just as violent and physically abusive as Cohen (darkly and visciously portrayed by Sean Penn) our ensemble of Cops fight ruthlessly to eradicate the grasp of Mickey Cohen and his henchmen in the most bold and intrusive means available. Add to the mix a young, sultry siren (Emma Stone) who, as Cohen's Moll-doll, secretly falls for the ever romantic rogue and member of O'Mara's Hat Squad, Jerry, and you have the classic Hollywood Love Triangle, acted with complete believability and vulnerability......Moral ambiguity, blazing tommyguns, knives, barefisted brawling are interspersed with a lively 40's soundtrack, lavish niteclubs, colorful suits, gowns and locales that capture the milieu of Los Angeles in the late 40' absolute visual spectacle from start to finish (and props to Nick Nolte as the legendary Bill Parker who sanctioned the formulation of the Gangster Squad) I found this endeavor to be sexy, violent and satisfying (appeasing the inner vigilante within ALL OF US)...
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on May 4, 2013
A squad of policemen, handpicked by Sgt John O'Mara, under the auspices but without the official support of Police Chief Bill Parker, is turned loose to destroy the Los Angeles crime empire of underworld kingpin, Mickey Cohen. Cohen was a scourge in LA for many years, but the creation of a special gangster squad as portrayed in the film is totally fictional. Fiction or no, the plot premise is excellent; but sadly descends into mediocrity, due to some very weak writing and poor direction by Robert Fleischer, who is mostly known for his comic films and is in over his head in this genre. That's a shame, because with the powerhouse cast it could have been so much better. Sean Penn delivers a fine performance as Cohen...few can portray a crime lord with the cold villainy of Penn and he doesn't disappoint. Other notable cast members include Josh Brolin as Sgt O'Hara; Nick Nolte as the Police Chief; Brian Gosling, Robert Patrick and Giovanni Ribisi as a key members of the squad; and Emma Stone as Cohen's moll and Gosling's love interest. Their characters are mostly undeveloped; and the beautiful and talented Stone is essentially wasted. Th film has its moments, with some excellent chase scenes and shootouts; but the violence is over-the-top and the profanity is pervasive. Worth watching if you have a rainy afternoon to waste; but I wouldn't waste any quality time on this
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on July 2, 2014
I wanted to like this movie but in the end its only unrealistic and over done. The characters are borderline silly and just copies of other characters in a million other bad movies.....The hard working boss, the ladies man, the tech nerd, the hard boiled chief, etc. And not to be indiscreet but given the LAPDs history, having two minorities on this hand picked squad is pretty much just modern PC for the audience's benefit. The only bright spot is Sean Penn. He is perfect in this role as he was in All the Kings men. I regret buying this but it was not for rental yet. Wait for the $3.99 rental on a day when you have absolutely nothing else you can think to do.
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on January 8, 2015
Quick Story recap: A good cop who wants to clean up the streets of LA is tasked with stopping a crime boss from taking over by any means necessary. He assembles a team of guys to help called the Gangster Squad.

It seemed like a bad mix of The Untouchables and Dick Tracy with more violence and at times cheesy dialogue. This movie is a bumpy ride starting with the acting. I think Josh Brolin and Giovanni Rabisi (Tech guy) being the only two who did a decent job. Ryan Gosling's character seemed to be ripped directly from a 50s Noir film, complete with that style of speech. This made many of his scenes and especially his romantic scenes to fall short. There are just two scenes where I felt he was portraying a real person instead of doing an impression. The movie never gives much time or importance to many of these characters so you don't really care for many of them or even remember their names. I don't understand the gunslinger cowboy cop. While his shooting was good, I liked him, his character stuck out as shouldn't really be in a mobster movie. Also, they barely used his special skill, only two times the entire film - when the guys are practicing and the very end. Wasted character. Wasted skill.

Overall though, the movie is just ok. It delivers well on action and that cool sense of the gangster mob movies that drove me to watch it in the first place. But it lacked in dialogue which was cheesy at times, plot holes, under developed characters, and it failed at the suspense and emotional points. SPOILERS FOLLOWING HERE: For example, the only moment in the movie the heroes were in real danger came in the form of the trap and it played out with Ryan Goslings character breaking up the trap well before it ever even became a viable suspense point. The other moment the suspense fell short was when Josh Brolin's character comes home thinking his wife may have been killed. It was so rushed, I didn't even know it was his house. Even in slow motion as they follow the blood trail it was resolved without the emotional impact it was trying to achieve. The boxing at the end could have also been taken out of the movie as it was stupid to think a cop with a gun would throw it down to duke it out hand to hand with a former boxing champ. There are a lot of things that didn't make sense, like how they traced the bug in Mickey Cohen's house directly to the location of Tech Guy. Why was absolutely no one at Mickey's house right after the Tech Guy's death? His house was guarded by tons of guys when Mickey wasn't home just 30 minutes earlier in the movie when they need to plant the bug. It's these moments that define the movie. Good action but there were boneheaded things - It had potential but didn't live up to it.
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LA in the time of Mickey Cohen, 1949. Cohen wants to take over LA and the entire West Coast. Chief Parker, the only cop in LA who seems to be straight wants to bring Cohen down. He brings on Sgt John O'Mara, played by Josh Brolin to head this secret squad. Sgt's wife played by Mirele Enos, (the US version of The Killing,star) helps him choose his squad. Ryan Gosling, is the most famous and difficult to get. Ryan is in love with Cohen's girlfriend, played by Emma Stone. That pretty much sums up the star power.

A lot of star power in ths film. A lot of guns, callous and brutal murder, violence and blood, so much blood. There is a semblance of a story, but not much of one. As I said, the best part of the film is the stars.

Not Recommended. prisrob 05-14-13
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