Based on the story of LAPD officers and detectives forming a group called the "Gangster Squad unit" who attempt to keep Los Angeles safe from Mickey Cohen and his gang during the 1940s and '50s.
A police officer forms a group who operate outside the law in order to keep their city safe from a mobster with big-time connections that prevent him from being arrested. In 1987, this film was The Untouchables, and over 25 years later, the same basic concept is used for Gangster Squad.
Josh Brolin stars as Sgt O'Mara, the soldier turned cop who headlines this group and while he gives a good performance, you can't help but think of Kevin Costner's turn as Eliot Ness.
Casting Academy award winner Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen sounds like a genius move, as what we expect is a terrifying performance that gives us a character who we should truly be afraid of. What we get, however, is an over the top performance that does anything but terrify and a prosthetic nose that stands out greatly.
Gosling and Stone give good performances in their roles, but their chemistry fails to ignite the screen like it did in Crazy, Stupid Love, resulting in a rushed and underdeveloped relationship. But that's not the only thing underdeveloped with this film, as the characters remain largely one-note and formulaic throughout the film, with characters making decisions and changing their minds without a proper explanation. Those are a few of the problems in the problematic script, and when combined with the stylish direction, and you have a film which is ultimately style over substance.
The film is great to look at. From the clothes to the set pieces, it's a treat for the eyes. Entertaining moments come regularly and the film will make you laugh. Granted, it's usually unintentionally, but why else would they put in a moment where a character runs after a car and catches up to it?
Gangster Squad goes in attempting to be The Untouchables for this generation, but comes out as a pulp comic book version of the Brian De Palma film. It may lack in proper character development, a villain that's truly menacing and dialogue that isn't of the cliched variety, but Fleischer's stylish direction and the entertaining moments make Gangster Squad far from a chore to sit through.