It is hard to get noir right. If not done right, the movie will just be another thriller with stylishly dressed people carrying tommy guns. When it is too perfect, it will turn into a parody. Gangster Squad manages to stay in the middle. It is a movie that doesn’t know which direction it wants to head. Director Ruben Fleischer seems to be fighting with himself in not turning the flick into a live-action cartoon just like Dick Tracy.
Gangster Squad takes place in the late 1940s Los Angeles. Mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) controls the city with an empire built on gambling, prostitution and drugs. His power and money has given him the means to bribe almost all members of the law enforcement and justice systems. This is why he is conducting his illegal business with impunity.
Chief of police (Nick Nolte) doesn’t want to lose his city to the mob ring and assigns Sergeant John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) to assemble a covert force to engage in guerrilla warfare against Cohen in the hopes of taking apart his operations. And this is how the Gangster Squad is born.
The screenplay by Will Beall is based on the book by Paul Lieberman. It gives a glimpse into the members of the squad. Sergeant Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) is the ladies’ man yet he falls in love with the first woman he has set his eyes on in the movie. Officer Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie) is the black cop who wants to get rid of drugs in his neighborhood. Officer Max Kennard (Robert Patrick) is the old man of the group. He brings along his partner, the Mexican Navidad Ramirez (Michael Pena). Lastly, there’s Officer Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi) who is a family man and tech expert of the squad.
Gangster Squad features all modern filmmaking gimmicks, such as freeze-frams, slow-motion, long tracking shots, and a digitized car chase. It also has a lot of gore. The movie is sleek and pretty on the outside that you might not notice its void on the inside.