Dressing up and playing cops-and-robbers apparently still holds its appeal with some Hollywood stars, which explains why the needless and needlessly violent “Gangster Squad” exists.
Set in Los Angeles, 1949, the story follows a tough police detective, Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin), as he’s tasked by the L.A. Police Chief (Nick Nolte) to wage war on the gang boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), to drive down his criminal operations through not-so-legal means. O’Mara assembles a group of equally tough cops, including the smooth Det. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling). Jerry, by the way, is having an affair with Mickey’s girlfriend, Grace (Gosling’s “Crazy, Stupid, Love” co-star, Emma Stone), which could have fatal consequences if Mickey ever finds out.
The movie claims to be “inspired by true events,” and based on Paul Lieberman’s book, but director Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”) seems even more inspired by past gangster movies — from Penn’s Cagney-like scenery-chewing to a storyline echoing Brian DePalma’s “The Untouchables.” The pacing is choppy (partly because a scene in a movie theater was removed after the Aurora, Colo., shooting), but the production looks lush and stylish.
Opens today at theaters everywhere; rated R for strong violence and language; 113 minutes.