Gangster Squad: high-octane pulp fun with an all-star cast

Jan 10, 2013

Sean Penn keeps cops busy in retro crime drama; Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone's chemistry 'scorches'

What you need to know
Crime action film Gangster Squad, directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland), opens at UK cinemas today. It features an all-star cast including Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Nick Nolte, and Emma Stone as Gosling's love interest.

The story is very loosely based on real-life attempts by the LAPD to keep East Coast gangsters out of Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s. It focuses on a group of six police officers who take on the psychopathic gangster boss Mickey Cohen (Penn) on his own, dirty terms.

The film's release was delayed last year so that a scene featuring a violent shoot-out in a cinema could be removed following the so-called 'Batman massacre' in Aurora, Colorado.

What the critics like
This slick, all-star film has plenty of visual razzle-dazzle and blood, says Nick de Semlyen in Empire. It takes on Brian De Palma's Untouchables to create something "bigger, glitzier and nastier". The chemistry between Gosling and Stone "scorches" and Sean Penn has fun with his lurid villain.

It's an "impressively pulpy underworld-plunger" set squarely in classic noir territory, says Peter Debruge in Variety. It's closer to The Untouchables than to L.A. Confidential. "Classic B-movie fun."

Fleischer has crafted a high-octane explosion of macho nonsense that we're not meant to take seriously, says William Bibbiani on Crave Online. Sean Penn hams it up as Mickey Cohen, a James Bond super-villain in disguise.

What they don't like
There are plenty of good actors involved, but aside from Brolin and Gosling they're barely given any special moments of their own to make their marks here, says Todd McCarthy in the Hollywood Reporter.

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