01/10/2013 11:13 | By Neil Smith, contributor, MSN Movies

Gangster Squad review

Vigilante cops have a mobster in their sights in a slick, extremely violent crime yarn set in 1940s Los Angeles.

Gangster Squad - three stars

Release date: 10 January 2013
Certificate: 15
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

What’s the story?
The post-war City of Angels has its own rapacious devil in the form of ruthless crime kingpin Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). Divested of their badges and armed to the teeth, a no less implacable police unit, led by Sergeant John O’Mara (Josh Brolin), set out to bring him to justice.

What did we think?
The tommy guns rarely stop blazing in an overcooked period caper that plays like one long retro music video. Ignore the preposterous plotting, surrender to the pastiche and wallow in Penn’s outrageous, prosthetically enhanced hamming and you’ll have a fine old time. Just don’t go looking for depth is all.

The cars are vintage, the clothes look right and everybody smokes like the proverbial chimney. But Ruben Fleischer’s showy attempt to do for LA what The Untouchables did for Chicago is essentially a shallow exercise that cravenly foists modern attitudes on an archaic genre in the faint hope we won’t see the join.

That is not to say the result isn’t an entertaining throwback to the glamorous gangster flicks of yesteryear, complete with bullet-strewn shoot-outs, explosive confrontations and Emma Stone doing her best Jessica Rabbit impression as Sean’s mobster moll. If Zombieland director Fleischer really wanted to honour the heritage he so shamelessly piggy-backs onto, however, he would surely have balked at giving Brolin such a box-ticking team of ethnically diverse lieutenants or allowing Penn quite so much room to grandstand.

Ryan Gosling gets the best of it as Jerry Wooters, the louche and laconic plod stirred to join Brolin’s dogged O’Mara on his quest to wash the scum off LA’s mean streets while wooing Stone beneath Penn’s boxing-ravaged nose. For all the fast, frantic fun Gangster Squad provides, though, it remains an ersatz facsimile that shares little with the likes of Chinatown and LA Confidential beyond a similar postcode.

3 stars

Verdict: Ryan’s slaughter.

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