Like De Palma’s “The Untouchables” gurgling on a grande coke-sherbet chaser, “Gangster Squad” is the classic noir gangster flick dry humping the hip, effects-heavy actioners of today. Meeting in the middle, the two elements pop, gushing in a broadly appealing, fast-moving head turner that’s clearly as interested in new Hollywood as it is old Hollywood.
Loaded with the visual guns he loaded his “Zombieland” with a couple of years back, and just as much if not more violence (it’s cartoonish violence, sure, but I realize it may be hard for some to take considering recent real-life events), Ruben Fleischer takes aim at the classic Capone-esque dirty fellas flick – cliches and all. The result is a film that’s as deliciously fun to watch for its funky action sequences and camera tricks as it is its central, somewhat old-hat gangster vs. goodie yarn.
Copper-cum-screenwriter Will Beall’s script is set in the golden age of Hollywood, the late ’40s, where rogues were out to emulate that scarred faced scum they took to on screen. Sean Penn plays one such nasty, an East Coast mafioso named Mickey Cohen who invades Los Angeles with plans to douse it’s every corner with his rule and way. Enter the honest and open Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) – also an impenetrable superhero copper – who, at the ‘s request, puts together a team to rid of the imported baddie.
The cast of the thing will be what puts bums on seats. Sean Penn, typically terrific as the demented gangster, Josh Brolin as the determined, unstoppable copper, with Ryan Gosling, Giovani Ribisi, Robert Patrick, Michael Pena and all bringing their distinctive styles to fill the “squad” parts. Emma Stone, as Gosling’s love interest (for the second time in the last two years; she cuddled up to him in “Crazy Stupid love”), also does a fine job as playing the torn moll – though it’s inarguable she may be a tad out of her league here.
Though Fleischer’s imagination and skill, as well as the performances of the film’s excellent cast, add a lot, it’s really Will Beal’s script that pumps air into “Gangster Squad”. Ripped with deliciously clever dialogue, high on detail, and mostly, brimming with fun, he takes what’s an otherwise vanilla story and adds 23 other flavours to its waffle tip.