‘Gangster Squad’ Review – 2013’s First Big Disappointment

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in Gangster Squad
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in Warner Bros Pictures’ ‘Gangster Squad’ (Photo by Wilson Webb)

“We’re not trying to solve a case. We’re going to war,” says Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin), a tough, honest cop who’s been given the task of trying to drive gangster kingpin Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) out of 1949 Los Angeles in the crime drama Gangster Squad.

Cohen rules L.A. with his tommy gun-carrying goons, crooked politicians, and paid-off policemen. He has even managed to keep the Chicago mob out of his city and is planning to increase his profits with a crooked wire betting scheme. Chief Parker (Nick Nolte), frustrated and fed up with losing the City of the Angels to Cohen, gives the greenlight to O’Mara for his unofficial squad of men to harass and attack Cohen any way they can.

O’Mara hand-picks a small group of men, including his friend Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) who’s already going up against Cohen in the romance department by seducing one of his ladies, Grace Faraday (Emma Stone). Together, O’Mara and Wooters begin to wage war against the most powerful mobster in the city.

Unoriginal and uninspired, Gangster Squad is a predictable action crime drama that desperately wants to be The Untouchables-meets-L.A. Confidential but fails miserably. This is a weak, poorly written film with cliché characters and an over-the-top performance by Sean Penn as the mob boss Mickey Cohen. In fact, Penn with the horrible make-up to look like Cohen only ends up looking like a reject from the 1990 Dick Tracy movie starring Warren Beatty.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have zero chemistry together as the rogue cop and gangster’s moll who are having a torrid affair. Their scenes together are the worst in the film, with painfully cheesy dialogue that’s sure to incite groans from the audience.

The action scenes in the movie, especially the shootouts, are a direct rip-off of the great Brian De Palma crime film The Untouchables but without the style, excitement and wonderful direction of De Palma.

The only decent performance in the film is given by Brolin as O’Mara, the straight, tough and likable detective determined to bust Cohen no matter what it takes. He has the best and only good scene early in the film when O’Mara goes up against some of Cohen’s thugs solo trying to save a naïve young woman from being raped.

Gangster Squad is an uneven, empty and shallow crime film which will have the audience wishing they were home watching Sean Connery as Jimmy Malone asking Kevin Costner’s Eliot Ness, “And now what are you prepared to do?!”


Gangster Squad hits theaters on January 11, 2013 and is rated R for strong violence and language.