Thursday 3 January 2013

Gangster Squad review

Gangster Squad (15/R, 113 mins)
Director: Ruben Fleischer
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Inspired by real events, this silly, intermittently enjoyable thriller takes place in Los Angeles in 1949, where mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) is hellbent on taking over the town with his drugs and vice empire. With most of the city’s cops on his payroll, it falls to honest sergeant John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) to lead Ryan Gosling and a small team in an effort to shut down Cohen’s operation through any means necessary. Strong in its period detailing and festooned in wall-to-wall violence, Gangster Squad is slick enough, and yet the action sequences consistently remind you that you're not watching The Untouchables, as much as director Ruben Fleischer might want you to think you are. And all the muscular gunplay and smoky production design in the land can’t always overcome a sloppy script that ticks every box you might imagine it would. Gosling’s relationship with Cohen’s moll Grace (Emma Stone) aims for Bogart-Bacall cool, but the pair are unexpectedly and disappointingly lacking in heat, and their byplay comes up some way short, while the focus on that and Brolin’s family life means the rest of the squad (Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Michael Peña, Giovanni Ribisi) barely register as characters. But a dead-eyed Penn is terrific, and when the action occasionally finds the bullseye, there’s just enough vibrant style to see it through.

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