Review: Gangster Squad ★★★★☆


Old school guns meet new school slowed down sequences in Gangster Squad, culminating in an explosive ending that will leave you begging for more. Echoes of Drive, Shanghai Noon and Die Hard will make you smile whilst trying to look past the fact that sadistic mob-boss Cohen (Sean Penn) looks mighty like Marlon Brando’s The Godfather.

Gangster Squad doesn’t skimp on the fire, guns, knives or cars (which are used not only as cover from machine guns, but also in a brilliant car chase), leaving you mentally wondering how much money they spent on production and special effects whilst physically glued to your seat, mouth agape, popcorn forgotten, eyes following everything on screen -blink, and you’ll miss something.

The slower scenes, although sometimes lackluster, are a welcome break from the violence; and your nail biting. Family barbecues or time with their better halves mean that you see a gentler side to the Squad which leaves you just a tad surprised when they turn rogue on Cohen’s (Penn) numerous henchmen. You’ll always feel bad for the ones who have to tell Cohen what happened.

In their time on screen, you may be left wondering who’s who, asking your friend ‘which character did (enter gun move here)’ or referring to each character by the actor’s name, but isn’t that one of the points of this film? Right at the start you’ll be told that the Squad will not be given credit for their work, which leaves you in a good place if you refer to John (Josh Brolin) as Men in Black guy; Jerry (Ryan Gosling) as the Charmer; Conway (Giovanni Ribisi) as the genius; Max (Richard Patrick) as the gunslinger; Navidad (Michael Pena) the token hispanic guy; and Coleman (Anthony Mackie) as the token black guy. If you think of Emma Stone as a minor character then you won’t get too annoyed that she has hardly any on screen time, but when she’s with Gosling it’s reminiscent of Crazy, Stupid, Love – you just fall in love with them as a couple.

Okay, not everyone will get out alive, but you will come away from the cinema knowing that you didn’t waste your time, or money. This doesn’t seem to be a film that you’ll just watch once- after seeing it with your girlfriend/boyfriend/RPG obsessed brother/Ryan Gosling obsessed sister you’ll want to see it again. You’ll laugh, cry and chant ‘oh god oh god oh god’ throughout. Although bloody, I think that Ruben Fleischer (director) did a good job here, and I’d recommend going to see it. I hardly ever plan to buy DVDs, but if I could write a list of the films I’d want in my Uni room, this would be one of them!

Gangster Squad (2013), directed by Ruben Fleischer, is distributed in the UK by Warner Bros. Pictures, Certificate 15. 


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