“Every man carries a badge.” – Sgt. John O’Mara
Swift shot: Brutality at its finest! In post-war America, Mickey Cohen runs Los Angeles with a vicious appetite for power and violence. The only people brave (or dumb enough) to stand up to him, The Gangster Squad, doesn’t officially exist. If you can “stomach” intense violence, and have a real love affair with all things noir, “Gangster Squad” is waiting.
It’s Los Angeles, 1949.
Josh (Goonies, No Country For Old Men) Brolin plays Sergeant John O’Mara of the Los Angeles police department. His partner Jerry is played effectively by Ryan Gosling, despite a rather odd accent affected by the former Mickey Mouseketeer. Both cops are veterans of a bloody war overseas, World War II. Their branch of service isn’t important, they both came home trained to really only do one thing exceptionally well . . . fight! Jerry clearly survived by brawn and street smarts, but O’Mara must have survived by pure guts alone.
Back home from the war, they each see an opportunity to enjoy life, but a new short little power-hungry shit needs to be dealt with before they can really be at peace. Enter, Mickey Cohen, a street-boxer, and thug, from the gritty, rotten rat boxes of New York City. He’s come to Los Angeles to rule the world. He owns politicians, cops, and whores, oh, wait, I said politicians already.
What he lacks in common sense, he makes up for in his willingness to just pretty much kill everyone. His goons are loyal, but as fast as he kills them, one wonders where the hell he keeps getting volunteers. And another thing you might ask yourself is where did his soldiers learn to shoot? Yea, it has that ‘element’ to it, unfortunately. What Ebert refers to as the “stormtrooper effect,” but this isn’t a one-sided film where the heroes necessarily prevail without casualties.
So, who are the characters that make up The Gangster Squad? Well, before I mention them, I need to mention their organizer, Chief Parker (and his right hand attache, Daryl Gates). Parker is handled with some effort by the aged Nick Nolte, but he doesn’t crap on any scenes and manages to come across as solid. While he is the idea guy, the real brains behind the recruitment is . . . wait for it . . . O’Mara’s wife. The selection sequence was decent, and it provided a little humor. Director Ruben (Zombieland) Fleischer couldn’t resist a little cheese for his fans, I guess.
The rest of Gangster Squad is made up of Giovanni (I melt things) Ribisi as Officer Keeler, the technical nerd. Anthony (The Hurt Locker) Mackie as Officer Coleman Harris, the black cop with the edge, literally. Michael (Crash, End of Watch) Pena as Officer Navidad Ramirez, the Mexican who has an odd apprentice-like relationship with Robert Patrick as Max Kennard, the gun-slinger. Each character actually has character and credit Screenwriter, Will Beal for actually developing the characters enough to make me care whether or not they lived or died . . . or worse.
Am I forgetting anyone? Ah yes, Miss Emma (The Amazing Spider-Man, Easy A, The Help) Stone who turns in a perfect 1940′s damsel in distress, although her character probably had the least exposition. She was smoking hot . . . oh yea, there was a lot of smoking in this film. Because, hey, there was a lot of smoking in the forties!
- The gun play in this one is just fun to watch, some new flashy cinematography to BOLO (be on the lookout) for.
- The fighting was really great to watch, one fight in particular was on par with the final fight in Lethal Weapon.
- This was no Untouchables, but it was much better than that dreadful The Black Dahlia
If you are waiting after the credits for the obligatory shoot-em-up of the title credits, sadly, they opted to not do that . . . but this film has plenty of violence, attitude, balls, and takes you back to the great gangster films of classic cinema . . . with a modern flair. Also, I was pleased to see the prop manager introduced war hardware that was actually finding its way to the mean streets after the war. See if you can spot them all!