Gangster Squad (3 stars)

Gangster Squad

The Ryan Gosling-starring LA noir has great performances but a nasty violent streak

As stylish as Ruben Fleischer's Gangster Squad is, it lacks the substance of similar genre films such as The Untouchables and LA Confidential and contains a nasty, even exploitative streak.

Inspired by the true story of a group of cops who sought to put an end to Brooklyn-born mob king Mickey Cohen's grip on Los Angeles in 1949, Gangster Squad is as star-studded as it is bullet-ridden. Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Michael Peña, Giovanni Ribisi, Nick Nolte and Robert Patrick line up among the good guys, Sean Penn portrays Cohen with a particularly sadistic intensity and Emma Stone plays the femme fatale caught in the middle.

While easy on the eye and enjoyable for the most part, especially when Gosling occupies the screen, Gangster Squad has a few too many flaws. The opening is especially violent and nasty and leaves a bad taste in the mouth, while Will Beall's script often feels contrived and derivative. Nods towards the moral and ethical dilemmas at play feel cursory, especially when set against the context of Fleischer's obvious relish for the set pieces.

It's hard not to recall The Untouchables while watching Gangster Squad given the innumerable similarities between characters and events in both films. In that regard, the film feels like it’s content merely to imitate and comes across as far inferior to Brian De Palma's masterpiece. Fleischer, though, just about gets away with it thanks to his cast, who work hard to compensate for such shortcomings.

General release from Thu 10 Jan.

Gangster Squad Trailer

Gangster Squad

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • US
  • 1h 53min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
  • Cast: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone
  • UK release: 11 January 2013

Based on the true story of a group of cops who in 1949 sought to end mobster Mickey Cohen (Penn)'s grip on Los Angeles. Fleischer's film, although stylish, too often recalls better films on similar subjects, and despite an all-star cast it feels nasty and exploitative.