His hands were tied to one car and his legs to another, before they were drove off in opposite directions. The victim could not divulge anymore information to his mafia boss, Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) and this lead to his grotesque death. His body parts were then nonchalantly fed to the dogs.

Based very loosely on the life of real Los Angeles gangster, Meyer Harris Cohen (1913-1976), Gangster Squad aims to re-enact his downfall in the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in the 1940s and 50s, although it was accountants that actually did him in.

In the heyday when nefarious organised crime activities knew no bounds, protected as they were by corrupt politicians and policemen on the take, Sergeant John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) was told by the Chief to form an elite team to close down Cohen’s operations and dilute his influence and power in Los Angeles. The 5 highly-skilled police officers whom the Sergeant lets his wife (Mirielle Enos) handpick due to her sharp insight are: Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), Rocky Washington (Anthony Mackie), Max Kennard (Robert Patrick), Navidad Ramirez (Michael Peña), and Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi).

Each of these 5 cops bring their own distinct talents to the team. Keeler, for example, is good with wires and bugged the TV set in Cohen’s room. Kennard, on the other hand, is blessed with perfect aim and can shoot a target even if it is beyond his scope.

Emma Stone plays the femme fatale, Grace Faraday, Cohen’s main squeeze but gets in the sack with Wooters behind his back. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling reunite as lovers after their previous movie, Crazy, Stupid, Love.

In an interview with Tribute Entertainment Media Group, Stone explains how it felt like to be working with Ryan Gosling again in Gangster Squad. “It’s not the easiest thing to slip into a different dynamic with someone you know and it was interesting learning how to make shifts from one thing to another,” she explained.
As Gangster Squad is set in the 1940s, the elegant costumes of the cast were tailored for the era. Think gentlemen in well-cut suits and fedoras, and ladies donning slinky long dresses. Also, vintage models of Chrysler cars bedecked the roadsides, and the squad could be seen using old walkie talkie models to communicate.

Halfway through the movie, our police squad turned gangster after establishing that they will do anything to destroy Cohen and threw away their police badges. They terrorised the different businesses Cohen owned such as the importation of drugs and prostitution, and literally lit a fire on the buildings and in Cohen’s heart. Cohen was livid and his wrath was palpable with every success that the squad made.Among all the cast, Sean Penn deserves the most credit for his potrayal of Mickey Cohen. His solid acting as a ruthless mafia sends shivers down the spine. When the squad finally cornered him at a hotel, Penn’s face visibly transformed from a solemn expression to a fuming one. Compared to Penn’s intense performance, the rest of the casts’ acting is lukewarm.

Overall, the movie has a good cinematography with a romanticise setting of the 1940s. It will certainly interest those who love action and thriller movies. According to an interview of Ruben Fleischer by Flicks and Bits, much inspiration was taken from classic gangster movies such as The Godfather (1972), The Untouchables (1987) and L.A. Confidential (1997).

However, the acting of some of the actors was not as strong even though each had their own trademark talents to strengthen their characterisation. For example, the stoic facial expression couldn’t do justice to the emotions of protagonist Sgt John O’Mara, nor to Brolin, who turned in such a fine performance in Men in Black 3 and The Goonies (1985). All things considered, this movie is an enjoyable watch if you like movies dealing with the people who uphold the law…and of course, the lawbreakers.


Movie name: Gangster Squad
Rating: 3/5
Release Date: Jan 10, 2013 (Singapore)
Duration: 113 minutes
Language: English
Age Rating: NC16
Genre: Adventure, Drama
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone