Gangster Squad (15)


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The Independent Culture

Welcome to Los Angeles, 1949, riddled with vice, ruled by gangsters, and the script isn't even written by James Ellroy.

The city has been turned into the personal fiefdom of Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), a Brooklyn mobster who's come west and got so many judges and cops in his pocket it's starting to bulge.

Enter Sgt John O'Mara (Josh Brolin), a war veteran charged by the chief of police (Nick Nolte) to go after the ganglord. To this end O'Mara recruits a squad of hardnut cops who will bring down the bad guys by any means necessary.

The few good men include Ryan Gosling as the young gun, Robert Patrick as the sharpshooter and Giovanni Ribisi as the surveillance expert. If it sounds a bit like The Untouchables then that's fine by Gangster Squad, which sets no great store by freshness or nuance. It's crimebusting by numbers, with the emphasis on violent set-pieces rather than the corkscrew plotting of, say, LA Confidential.

Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) doesn't stray far from the pulp standards of Forties noir, a matter of nifty threads, moody lighting and femmes fatales, the last supplied by Emma Stone as Cohen's straying moll.

Sophisticated it is not, least of all in the spectacle of Penn chewing up all available scenery. With his hooded eyes and prosthetic nose he looks more like Freddy Krueger than Mickey Cohen, and for chief villain he's given barely one memorable line to say. Maybe they should have hired James Ellroy after all.