Long ago, there was a time when the gangster not only had the world in their hands, but had class and style. Very prominent during the prohibition era and Great Depression, they gave the people something that the government wasn’t going to give them, a thrill of life. Life was hard and the black market had the promise to give the people it’s liquor to escape or their gambling to possibly get everything back. It was during these times that a lot of these crime lords became very wealthy and made their mob dress for the occasion.
These days, when we think of a gangster, we think about a poor man in a dark ally with a gun. He doesn’t have a mansion, but he has drugs. But despite the filthy image, some people are still giving in to these individuals. But what has caused their persona to decline. I think that once more police were keen on locking up these people; they spread massive smear propaganda that revealed the darker side of the criminal. The tactic that scared most people has led to the decline of these mobs. Though there are plenty of these people around, things will never appear so classy again. Gangster Squad is a little nostalgic trip down into these classy gangsters and their decline.
Set in Los Angeles in 1949, gangster Mickey Cohen (played by Sean Penn) has become one of the most powerful men in the city, completely dominating the underground world, looking to expand his criminal enterprise. A former boxer, Cohen is ruthless and is obsessed with ruling the city. Even according to police chief Bill Parker (played by Nick Nolte), they are in an era of “enemy occupation”.
To counter Cohen, Parker assigns Sergeant John O’Mara (played by John Brolin) to act under a secret police unit to stop the rising criminal. O’Mara is given the task of creating his own squad of officers to join him in battle. Though he is able to find the people that he want, his last recruit, Jerry Wooters (played by Ryan Gosling) declines, enjoying his current status. One evening, he changes his mind when a young man he talks to is gunned down by local mafia and that the girl of his dreams, Grace (played by Emma Stone) is dating Cohen. Night after night, they take their rifles to simply kill every gangster associated with Cohen with the goal of driving him outta of town.
On one hand, Gangster Style really tires to show a stylistic, old-fashioned gangster story. But that is also the biggest problem. It may have some interesting slow motion bullets flying and a dark look, it doesn’t have a good backing. The story looked liked it was ready to go, but many of those on the squad (Brolin and Gosling) are stock characters. Being that Gangster Squad is supposedly based on true events, then building deep characters should have not been a problem. It’s almost like Dick Tracy when you take out the cool characters and scenery.
Sean Penn is actually pretty intimidating, almost frightening as the merciless Mickey Cohen. He’s one of the few who seems to be trying to build a realistic criminal. If the movie has anything that works is the action. Though obviously made up, the chases and shootouts are actually entertaining. But it takes sitting through the rest of the very bad dialogue (a lot of it sounds like something you would hear in a movie trailer) to get to.
I’ll give it three tommy guns out of five. Gangster Squad fails as a compelling historical crime drama, but it works as an action movie. It’s too bad they failed to find a bridge between them.