Gangster Squad is an “adrenaline shot” elegy to gangster films. It’s The Untouchables on steroids. A bravura, masculine ode to the 1950’s crime movement that has been glorified in films before but never has it been spit-shined and polished like this before and that can be attributed to Ruben Fleischer’s slick and dynamic direction as well as the art and costume direction that makes the film burst off the screen with a neon glow that makes the film look like a blood-splashed pop-up book.
The film follows an outcast sergeant who has severed his ties within the L.A. police department through his unwillingness to cater to the town’s criminal overlord Mickey Cohen, who seemingly has everyone in L.A within his terroristic grasp firmed by vicious killings and a drug trade that threatens to turn everyone into a zombie or petrified servant to his empire.
When the chief of police (Nick Nolte) tasks the sergeant, played by Josh Brolin, to set up a task force to help bring down Cohen and his gang of mobsters, Brolin must set out to create a team of vigilante cops who will eschew the law in favor of bringing their town back from the brink of total martial law.
Gangster Squad is just about everything a man would want in an action film. It’s Tarantino-esque in its choices of characters. There’s the lone gunslinger. The knife-wielding African-American loner cop. A young Mexican upstart with much to learn. There’s a brainiac who is adept at counter-intelligence. And then there’s an alcoholic (Ryan Gosling) who doesn’t realize or come into his powers until a random act of violence spurs him into action. It’s not until Brolin galvanizes all these men that he creates the Gangster Squad, and when he does, the bullets really begin to fly.
Fleischer particularly has incredible control of his camera, specifically during one jaw-dropping chase scene that sees the camera take us in and out of each pursuing car with a glossy bluster of movements that swivels with kinetic action.
Particularly exciting is the performance of Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen, who just about chews up every scene that he’s in and for just cause. His facial expressions are marvelous and his body language and quiet sadism are something to behold.
The ending is a flurry of ammo and is perhaps a just end to the film but it leaves something to be wanted. But, if you like your action fast, furious, your characters bold and brazen, and your art and costume direction popping off the screen with audaciousness, then this is the film for you.
Buy Gangster Squad on Blu-ray and DVD today on Amazon, Itunes, or wherever else you can receive a digital copy or disc.