Right from the start, Gangster Squad has a lot of gore and violence. You might not want to watch it if the sight of blood makes you squirm in your seat. It is inspired by a true story and based on a non-fiction novel written by Paul Lieberman.
Gangster Squad is a stylish but superficial mobster-cop movie. It is about the undercover unit of Los Angeles Police Department that supposedly crushed one of Los Angeles’ gangster in 1949 with off-the-book tactics.
The movie is rendered in a sepia tone. It shows how Los Angeles has deteriorated. The cops and politicians are controlled by power-crazy mafia head Mickey Cohen. He carries out brutal acts across the city, such as locking up innocent girls and keeping them hooked on Mexican drugs or burning up his own thugs alive in elevator shafts.
Honest police officer John O’Mara is tasked by the Chief of Police to create an undercover team to stop Cohen. He signs up Sergeant Jerry Wooters, whose womanizing skills manages to attract Cohen’s girl Grace Faraday. Rounding up the squad are the Central Avenue black beat cop Coleman Harris, old cowboy sharpshooter Max Kennard, Latino Navidad Ramirez, and eavesdropping expert Conwell Keeler.
The Gangster Squad goes on a series of raid on Cohen’s bars, casinos, and clubs. This leads to continuous adrenaline pumping action. Josh Brolin plays the leader John O’Mara and Ryan Gosling as Jerry Wooters. Brolin does his best as a man who has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. Gosling manages to steal the show with his off-handed approach. Sean Penn plays the mafia boss. He is scary and effective, especially with his droopy-eyed stare.
But not everyone is portrayed convincingly. There are lots of untapped potential in the characters. In the defense of the director, each actor gets their own moment in the movie.