Film review – Gangster Squad

“The whole town is underwater and you’re grabbing a bucket when you should be wearing a bathing suit”

Directed by Ruben Fleischer, Gangster Squad is set in 1949 and sees Sean Penn star in a very loose interpretation of real life gangster Mickey Cohen.  Penn is joined by a strong cast which include Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin and Emma Stone.  The storyline revolves around the fact that gangster Mickey Cohen has complete control over the criminal underworld of Los Angeles and honest cop, sergeant John O’Mara (played by Josh Brolin), has had enough of Cohen’s reign.  He puts together a secret task force of police to hamper Cohen’s activities and hunt him down.

I found this film to be very watchable.  It is fast paced with a reasonable, (if not particularly unique), storyline and interesting characters.  As you might expect from a film called ‘Gangster Squad’, it is very violent.  Right from the start it had ‘no holds barred’ violence and gore, which surprised me a little given the films 15 rating.  I don’t feel the amount of violence or the way in which it is depicted is necessary to the storyline, but a choice was obviously made to include it.

I’ve never been a fan of Sean Penn, but he plays a good part as Mickey Cohen.  (Though I not sure how much real acting was required for him to have that role)!  Rylan Gosling gives a good performance as Jerry Wooters, the somewhat reluctant cop who just wants an easy life and Brolin is excellent as John O’Mara, the honest cop struggling against a environment filled with corruption.

The film deserves credit for showing the effect all of the ‘goings on’ have on the families of members of the police task force, and not simply being about ‘cops after gangsters’.  This adds depth and a slightly more real feeling to the film.

Mickey Cohen was a real person, but the portrayal of events in this film definitely are not based on true facts.  In Gangster Squad Cohen is brought to justice in 1949 by the police, but in real life he was first apprehended in 1950 and then finally in 1961.  It was accountants, not the police that were Cohen’s undoing.

Gangster Squad isn’t the best gangster film ever made, but it’s not the worst!  If you like the genre you should enjoy it, provided you can take the facts with a large ‘pinch of salt’.

See it if you liked:  Public Enemies, Lawless, Drive

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