Film Review: Gangster Squad

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Gangster Squad is an entertaining but flawed gangster film. Despite some inconsistencies the film is enjoyable.

In the Los Angeles of 1949 Sgt. John O’Mara is a rare honest cop in a city rife with corruption. With mafia boss Mickey Cohen holding influence in all levels of authority, O’Mara must work covertly with a small group of officers in order to smash his operation…

Gangster Squad is a by the numbers gangster feature with the requisite action, crime and corruption. At the very beginning it seems as if the film is aiming for a noir approach but this is quickly dispelled. Instead it is a more straightforward gangster picture.

The plot, a violent game of cat and mouse, throws up few surprises. The mood of the film is the aspect that may raise eyebrows. At various points the film is humorous, a take on the traditional gangster movie and a serious action film. It is most fun when it takes on the former two personas. The latter, in the final third, is less enjoyable.

Violence in the film is frequent. The dominant message appears to be only violence get beat violence. This is addressed explicitly in the film, but a satisfactory response is never ascertained. There is no more nuanced a message than honest cops are the good guys.

The costumes and sets are great. It is a pity that the camera work does not quite match this aesthetic. The slow motion is unnecessary. If the entire film was comic-like this may have worked. The dialogue is at times pithy, but can descend into delusions of grandeur in the more serious moments. Performances are good overall. Josh Brolin is well cast as honest cop O’Mara while Gosling offers the best delivery. Anthony Mackie is underused as ever, while Sean Penn has fun with his caricature role.

Gangster Squad is never a chore. It is fun and entertaining in spite of some flaws.