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Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Nick Nolte

Ruben Fleischer

113 Mins

 Los Angeles 1949 – Retired boxer and now ruthless mob king Mickey Cohen (Penn), calls the shots in town where he runs and controls a large enterprise of underground criminal vices. Flanked not only by his gang of low-life fist punching and gun busting goons, Cohen also has many high powered politicians and cops under his thumb thanks to the bribes and fear he serves up to them. Wielding such power, it is no surprise then that no one dares testify as witness against Cohen’s criminal ways, leaving him pretty much with free rein of the city.  In order to end Cohen’s evil run and control over the city, a secret police unit is formed with the aim of bringing Cohen down. Led by the righteous but not so shrewd thinking cop John O’Mara (Brolin), the newly formed ‘Gangster Squad’ set out to accomplish their mission – sending Cohen and his empire back to hell!

From the very first seconds of the movie, extreme violence is already the name of the game, or so I was led to think. With a name like gangster squad, many would be forgiven for expecting a mean ass hardcore mafia story based on the movie’s namesake. But if one has watched director Ruben Fleischer’s previous work Zombieland, he or she would have the right expectations coming into this movie. Zombieland was such a fresh, wild and fun ride, and Fleischer certainly carried over the fun juice into Gangster Squad.

Sean Penn was great as the “meanest of mean” mob king, his ruthless nature was excellently displayed through his wry smile and the aura of power he portrays through his expressions. Penn’s character Mickey was the epitome of violence and power; be it fights, fire, shooting or shouting his authority at people’s faces, Penn was doing it all with ease and he looked like he’d make a real good mob king in real life. And I have to say that for a 52 year old, Penn sure packs a mean punch!

Sadly for Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, I was not blown away by their characters nor their performances. Their characters felt shallowly fleshed out and it seemed liked their roles were geared more towards being the pretty eye candies of the franchise (not that i’m complaining though!;]) But it certainly left me wanting. Gosling’s character as the super slick and cool dude of the bunch whose a deep romantic at heart added fun to the film with his witty pick-up phrases and couldn’t-care-less attitude, but it lacked the really hardcore aspect of a “bad” boy. And to be honest, I don’t remember much about Stone’s character because her role was quite lacklustre to the story. It would have been more interesting and thrilling if her character was more threatened in the film.

Overall, the downs of this movie was the strength of the story and the tameness of the violent tone. The movie was generally entertaining; there was a good mix of action, violence and humour, but it was not serious enough in being badass. There were fights, explosions and gunfights, but the blood and gore felt rather safe. The gunfight at the end was not as climatic and intense as I was expecting but it was fast and furious in an action aspect. The development of the characters’ stories were decent for most, only the parts involving Gosling and Stone’s characters seemed rather shallow. But knowing Fleischer based on his Zombieland work, I understand that he wasn’t going for a serious all dark gangster movie, but rather a slightly lighter and fun tone like how Zombieland was. But in my opinion, that approach suited Zombieland a whole lot more due to the nature of the story and the characters.

On another note, I did enjoy the witty lines that were splashed here and there in the film. Michael Pena’s character was the one that really made me laugh, so one should definitely keep a lookout for his character. There were also tender moments within the story that really tugged at the movie-goer’s emotions, and I though it added a layer of depth to the film.

Thus although the movie felt a little safe on the violence and drama aspect, I was still pretty entertained throughout given the whole combination of wit, fun, humour and action that came into play. One thing’s for sure, you won’t get bored watching this film!

Trailer – Extended

Clip of the action