Written by / 1/23/2013 / No comments / , , , , , , ,

GANGSTER SQUAD

year: 2013 cast: Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Robert Patrick rating: ***1/2
Testosterone-fueled and bloody basic, GANGSTER SQUAD holds few punches. Centering on Josh Brolin’s square-jawed/hard nosed Sgt. John O’Hara in post-war Los Angeles, this is a mindlessly involving romp that borrows more from Westerns than old school crime flicks.

O’Hara’s band of rouge lawman wind up screwing with Mickey Cohen’s seedy rule of L.A. by attacking his casinos, not busting them; burning the cash instead of taking it home. The best scenes have the Squad in action, vandalizing Cohen’s operation like a gang of schoolyard punks given permission to wreak havoc, without limits.    

Sean Penn does an okay job as the cutthroat crime boss Mickey Cohen, although his reactionary scenes mostly consist of vein-popping tantrums, seeming more like someone’s grumpy father than an infamous kingpin. Any capable actor could have pulled off the part, but Penn – perhaps channeling pal Robert De Niro’s Capone from THE UNTOUCHABLES – has a good time no matter. 

It’s really Brolin’s ride but he’s not alone. Ryan Gosling’s Jerry Wooters is a mellow lady’s man who falls for Cohen’s moll played by Emma Stone. Their love scenes and dialog together mean nothing – in fact when the bullets aren’t flying, any of the character development… including O'Hara and his worried pregnant wife… is paper thin and ultimately pointless: Which would be a hindrance in a movie that doesn’t celebrate non-stop action with such addictive gusto.

With Robert Patrick on board as a gritty dead eye veteran partnered up with Michael Pena’s semi comic relief – and others including Giovanni Ribisi as a family man/technical guru, this is a roller coaster ride where the good guys play bad and have a literal blast doing it.

Just don’t expect anything but fluff – fueled by Tommy Guns and perpetual explosions – and you’ll do all right.
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