Review: Gangster Squad

Poster for 2013 crime film Gangster Squad

Genre: Crime, Action
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 10th January 2013
Runtime: 113 minutes
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writer: Will Beall
Starring: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone
Synopsis: LA is being dominated by a brutal crime lord, until a top secret police unit is formed to bring him down.




Gangster Squad has received a massive kicking from critics. They hate its style over substance approach to action filmmaking and think Sean Penn is trying just a little too hard. It’s true that Ruben Fleischer’s gangster film has absolutely nothing to say and is driven entirely by the noises of its gun barrels, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good time.

It’s a ridiculously fun movie. Sean Penn is chewing so much scenery in his role as mob kingpin Mickey Cohen that he’s in danger of choking and he gets to deliver some delightfully nasty blasts of violence. Ryan Gosling is effortlessly cool as handsome police officer Wooters and chemistry crackles between him and Emma Stone just as it did in the excellent romcom Crazy, Stupid, Love.

The script is wafer-thin and, despite some cracking Penn menace, most of the dialogue is simply incidental exposition to pad out the segments of Gangster Squad when the cast aren’t emptying magazines at each other. A number of plot threads are picked up and then discarded at Ruben Fleischer’s will in favour of more Josh Brolin looking angry.

It’s not going to win any awards, but the action is perfectly entertaining and the plot rattles along at a pace that keeps the film going, even if there isn’t any substance there. It slightly wastes Emma Stone and leaves a number of its supporting characters more thinly drawn than a pencil sketch of Victoria Beckham, but there’s enough rat-a-tat gunfire to distract.

Perhaps the changed release date of Gangster Squad was a blessing for the distributors. Instead of being a big, end of summer tentpole, the film has been buried in the middle of January amongst the Oscar hopefuls. It’s a shame because Gangster Squad is not a bad film at all.

In fact, it’s violent, amusing and very enjoyable.


Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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