Director Ruben Fleischer goes back in time with his latest film, Gangster Squad. It’s an ensemble piece headlined by Josh Brolin, Sean Penn and Ryan Gosling. Based on the book of the same name, the film charts the real-life fall of mobster Mickey Cohen.

The Players

  • Director: Ruben Fleischer
  • Writer: Will Beall, Paul Lieberman (book Gangster Squad)
  • Cast: Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Robert Patrick, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Sullivan Stapleton, Mireille Enos, Michael Pena, Nick Nolte, Troy Garity
  • Cinematography by: Dion Beebe
  • Original Music by: Steve Jablonsky

The Plot:

In 1940s Los Angeles, Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) has a death-grip on the city. As his reach spreads, Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) is commissioned to lead a secret task force to bring him down. It’s a group of six men with unique skills that range from a surveillance wiz, a knife-thrower and an elite marksman. In their effort to destroy Cohen’s empire, they leave their badges and ethics at the door.

The Good:

  • Cast: The cast of Gangster Squad is a who’s who of talent that came to play. Brolin, Penn, and Gosling really ham it up with this material. Brolin channels Robert Stack’s Eliot Ness, while Penn does his best Al Pacino in Dick Tracy. It might be a turnoff for some, but they’re having fun with the characters, and that’s entertaining to watch.
  • Costumes: Clothes really do make the man (or woman). The costumes in this movie are gorgeous. The guys look dapper and true to the period, while Stone and Enos exude the ’40s vixen and housewife. Everyone dressed the part.

The So-So:

  • Tone: Gangster Squad isn’t the next L.A. Confidential or The Untouchables. It’s a combination of those films, plus Dick Tracy and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Despite what the trailers show, it’s not a serious drama. There are moments of violence and gore, but it’s a borderline action-comedy. If you go in thinking otherwise, you’ll be disappointed.
  • Relationships: With the exception of O’Mara’s marriage, most of the romance comes from Wooters (Gosling) and Faraday (Stone). Their relationship is at the center of the conflict between Cohen and the cops. She’s a woman torn between the good guy and the bad boy. Unfortunately, we don’t buy her and Wooters’ love for a second. After their initial meeting, they’re thrown into a makeshift love affair that’s extremely rushed. Therefore, any sacrifices they make on each other’s behalf feels unearned.

The Bad:

  • Emma Stone: Stone is an amazing actress, but this role isn’t for her. At first glance, Grace Faraday reads like Joan (Christina Hendricks) from Mad Men. The character could have benefited from someone a little older, with more experience. Stone put in a solid effort, but she just couldn’t sell it.


Gangster Squad isn’t a high-brow drama. It has A-list talent, but the script’s on a B- level. There are some fun and entertaining sequences to balance out the rough patches. If you take it for it is, and not what you thought it’d be, you’ll enjoy yourself.

The Rating:  6.5/10

Gangster Squad opens in theaters everywhere January 11.

Photo Gallery:


Will you be seeing Gangster Squad this weekend?