No names, no badges, no mercy. The eagerly awaited retro-crime classic Gangster Squad is with us at last Crimeziners. For noir nabobs, fedora fanciers, and fans of full-auto firepower everywhere, this movie is a veritable bonanza of gangsterish goings on.
Starring the relentlessly square-jawed Josh Brolin, as Sgt. John O’Mara, the crimetastic Ryan Gosling as the fabulously named Jerry Wooters and Sean Penn as a snarling and demonic Mickey Cohen, this movie warns us at an early stage that it is “inspired by actual events”. Yikes! Just how “actual” these events are, we will examine in a moment… but first…
Gangster Squad is a deliciously enjoyable, if somewhat goofball movie, featuring a dangerous mission by a gang of outsider cops, led by Brolin, to fight corruption in the Los Angeles justice system, in order they might win back the city of Los Angeles, from the evil clutches of “Real life” mobster Mickey Cohen. We have seen this story in a bazillion other movies of course, from the Magnificent Seven, to The Expendables, but no matter. We are talking gangsters this time out, and Crimezine LOVES gangsters.
Director Ruben Fleischer has crowbarred just about every gangster cliché you have ever seen or heard into Gangster Squad, to the extent one expects James Cagney & Humphery Bogart to glide into shot at any moment. Sadly they don’t. But the badgeless band of LAPD rebels more than make up for this, by firing off more ammo than the Normandy landings at a whole swathe of fedora wearing bad guys from central casting. Pchang! Pchang!
Light relief, is supplied by the slinky Emma Stone, who plays Mickey Cohen’s moll Grace Faraday, a woman who wastes no time in hooking up with chain-smoking Ryan Gosling, almost before the duo have started the first of very many cigarette breaks they enjoy together. Cough. There is also O’Mara’s wife, a woman who seeks to protect her husband by helping him choose the men for his squad, then worrying in a wifely way, about the wisdom of a family man, such as her husband, mixing it with the Cohen empire. You just know it is going to end badly—right, Crimeziners?
There is a strong supporting cast in this movie, Nick Nolte has a cameo as Chief of Police Bill Parker; the marvelous Anthony Mackie, plays switchblade wielding cop Colman Harris and Giovani Ribisi is Conwell Keeler, the team dork and social conscience behind the enterprise.
Then there is Crimezine favorite Sean Penn. As ever Penn is thoroughly marvelous, spitting, snarling and rampaging through every scene. He looks nothing like Mickey Cohen, but Penn is so bad-ass in the role it doesn’t matter. Crimezine sat through the whole movie wondering if Penn’s Haloween mask countenance was real, or prosthetic—whatever the answer, the on screen evidence was super-scary.
Which brings us neatly back to the premise of this whole enterprise, namely that Gangster Squad is based—sorry, “inspired” by a true story. The fact is, a number of characters in this movie actually existed, Bill Parker and Mickey Cohen for example, pretty much everything else, apart from the Cohen wire service scam, is neatly packaged Hollyweird horse shit. Few people will know the real truth however, if you don’t, you will enjoy Gangster Squad greatly—you might even mention this movie in the same breath as LA Confidential. If, however, you do know the real story, you will be screaming profanities richer than Sean Penn’s Mickey Cohen.