Los Angeles, circa 1949, Brooklyn-born gang lord Mickey Cohen runs the show in Los Angeles. With the police and the politicians under his thumb, Cohen has been reaping the ill-gotten gains from his businesses in drugs, guns and prostitutes, and the occasional wire bets placed west of Chicago.
The trailer of the film, which was released sometime around June last year, created quite a stir amongst the audiences. The film itself, sadly, doesn’t quite match up to the electrifying promo. However, for all its intense action sequences, impeccable costumes, witty dialogues and superlative performances, ‘Gangster Squad’ is certainly worth a watch. It’s an ode to the great Hollywood mafia films of the 70s and the 80s. Doesn’t quite cut it like them, but ends up being an enjoyable ride anyway.
So, Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) has been terrorizing everyone and anyone in Los Angeles, his own men notwithstanding. His act in the film, involves beating his foes to pulp (although, he maintains his boxing days are behind him), womanizing (his latest moll is the gorgeous Grace Faraday (Emma Stone)), dining with chief justices and politicians and tightening them under the noose, while going about handling his prospering ‘illegal’ businesses. The people fear him and the establishment is intimidated by him. Thus, comes the moment of reckoning for Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin). A tough cop, John doesn’t get bogged down by Cohen or his men. Strong enough to overpower three goons at a time and as honest as a mirror, John is summoned by Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) to ditch his police badge and head a group of vigilantes to not KILL, but destroy and eventually drive Cohen out of Los Angeles.
So, here they are, the loving husband John O’ Mara (his pregnant wife Connie O'Mara (Mireille Enos) doesn’t seem to agree), Det. Navidad Ramirez (hilarious, watch out for his lines) (Michael Peña), Det. Conway Keeler (great father-son track involving him) (Giovanni Ribisi), tough nut Det. Rocky Washington (Anthony Mackie), Det. Max Kennard (old-but-sharp) (Robert Patrick) and the inimitable Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling). Together, this ‘gangster squad’ wreaks havoc on Cohen and his men.
Sean Penn is terrific as the menacing gang lord Michael Cohen. The diction, the dressing, the swagger and the evil instinct is very much inherent in the leading antagonist and Sean pulls the character off with élan. Josh Brolin is terrific as John O’ Mara. Understated during the emotional scenes, and belligerent in the action sequences, Josh delivers a fine performance.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone share sparkling chemistry. Emma’s introductory scene, where she is being regaled by the charming Ryan, is delightful. The dialogues in this film are beyond brilliant.
Here are a few exhibits,
Wordplay between Ryan’s Jerry and Emma’s Grace –
Grace - What’s your racket, handsome?
Jerry - I’m a Bible salesman.
Grace - You wanna take me away from all this and make an honest woman out of me ?
Jerry - No, Ma’m. I was just hoping to take you to bed.
Yet Another -
Cohen’s Man – I’m so sorry Mr.Cohen. That will never happen again. I swear to God.
Sean Penn’s Cohen – You’re talking to God, so you might as well swear to me.
It’s not just the lines, but the way they look on-screen. The costumes and the sets are terrific, offering that irreplaceable nostalgia of the classic ‘gangster’ films. There are moments in the film, where the relentless action may irk you a bit, but thankfully, it does not overstay its welcome. At just under two hours, the film is paced quite well and manages to keep you engaged. Director Ruben Fleischer has made an enjoyable film. Full of pulp, this! There are a few inconsistencies, which mar the plot, such as the basic concept of ‘six men waging war against countless criminals’, the fact that Cohen never gets the squad killed despite knowing their whereabouts, and Grace moving in and out of her romantic liaison with Jerry so conveniently among a few more. However, the film, in essence, doesn’t make you wrack your brains over the plot.
‘Gangster Squad’ is a linear story, told in the most entertaining manner. It’s a one-time watch!