Monday, February 4, 2013


Rated: R

Stars: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
Director:  Ruben Fleischer
Genre: Crime Drama

The kindest thing that can be said about Sean Penn's looks is that they are an acquired taste. So it wasn't so  much of a stretch to turn him into one ugly lookin' S.O.B. cast as deranged,  sadistic crime boss Mickey Cohen in Gangster Squad.    

And man, is he convincing. (It's those eyes, you know...and that sneer.)

Which is not to say Penn's Cohen is not a flat character, because it is, but so are all the rest in this stylish homage to film noir of the forties. Cohen dispatches his gangland rivals in lots of creatively grisly ways. A man with not a shred of conscience to be found. So what we have is good versus evil the way it was portrayed in the days of James Cagney--right down to Cohen's square-jawed nemesis, Sergeant John O'Mara of the LAPD, (Josh Brolin) who heads up a secret squad whose mission is to break the grip the crime boss has on the City Of Angels--where he has the market on dope, hookers, and firearms cornered--and most of  the cops and judges in his back pocket.  (Which ain't good, cuz everybody knows that when there is competition, the prices go down!)

O'Mara has more bravado than brains, so he never wavers from his mission, even during the over the top rat-a-tat shootouts with Cohen's goons that would have wiped out scores of innocent bystanders  had they actually come off the way they are portrayed.  (Gangster Squad is based on actual events, but LOOSELY, shall we say.)

Ryan Gosling  is the devil-may-care detective Jerry Wooters, who hooks up with Cohen's bored and beautiful moll, Grace, (Emma Stone). They are both willing to risk their own butts for a little romantic diversion (fueled by some raging hormones--which can make many an otherwise prudent person myopic to the inherent dangers of such in a sense when your mother told you to "stop that or you'll go blind" she was telling the truth.).

Copious violence notwithstanding,  I liked the jazzy feel to  Gangster Squad--it's soundtrack by Steve Jablonsky and the nightclub scenes in an era where everybody seemed to have a sense of style--even if all  the men wore the same hat.  And if you remember that kicky song "Mr. Five By Five,"  why hell, you shouldn't even be alive!

Grade:  B