Zachary Durand, ‘Doah Staff Writer
January 23, 2013
Inspired by true events, “Gangster Squad” exposes the 1949 tale of Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), the infamous mob lord with the desire to turn Los Angeles into his own booze and brothel empire. With L.A. trapped in a mob war, the LAPD turns to Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) to assemble The Gangster Squad — an eclectic team of L.A.’s dirtiest coppers, dedicated to destroying Cohen’s stranglehold on their city. Helmed by director Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”) and screenwriter Will Beal, “Gangster Squad” is all style, with zero substance.
Beal has penned one of the most predictable scripts to be recently seen in Hollywood. He uses a medley of the most clichéd lines in mob movie history, stringing them together to create a piece that is both laughable and eye-rolling — much like the prosthetics job done to Penn.
However, the coy character of Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), O’Mara’s second-hand man, throws the audience a life vest in this fast-sinking vessel. Gosling’s all-star charisma and boy-next-door charm brings to the script moments of levity — almost making the 79 page concoction bearable.
Brolin hits the jackpot in his portrayal of the commander of The Gangster Squad. He is the complete package; it’s as if his former life was that of a copper in this classic-noir set picture. Though Penn hits a low note in his Oscar winning career in his portrayal of Cohen, he does offer moments of sadistic cruelty that would chill even Enoch Thompson to the bone. Penn’s moments are scarce, but they pack a wallop.
The true standout of this Art Deco piece falls to set designer, Gene Serdena and costume designer, Mary Zophres. Every detail, from the copper etchings in the banisters to the intricate stitching in each of the gentlemen’s overcoats, brings the lavish lifestyle of 1940’s Los Angeles to the silver screens of 2013. Oscar buzz is already circling around these two, and rightfully so.
But, with gore and slow-motion gunfire aplenty, director Fleischer has created a film that tries way too desperately to be the 1949 version of “Sin City.” Perhaps, to his surprise, his tommy gun has backfired.