Gangster Squad is not going to be the best movie you see in 2013, it probably won’t even make it in the top 10.  But it is a fun, campy cop drama and an overall enjoyable movie experience, if you don’t mind historical fiction.

Very loosely based on a true story, Gangster Squad takes place in Los Angeles in 1949; when Jewish mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) runs the city. Guns, drugs, prostitutes…If it’s illegal, he’s got it.  Sergeant John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) is asked by the police chief (Nick Nolte) to assemble a secret police force to work off the books destroying Cohen’s growing empire. His team includes the sexy, suave Sergeant Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) who is reluctant at first, but after getting a personal push he joins the team. Rounding out the group of misfit police officers; crack shot Officer Max Kennard (Robert Patrick), tech savvy Officer Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi), tough guy Officer Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie) and Kennard’s sidekick Officer Ramirez (Michael Pena). The team goes through some growing pains, but quickly gels with their abilities to shut down Cohen’s operations through the usual gangster means of retaliation.

If you are a mob history aficionado, you’ll quickly become aware and annoyed with the historical inaccuracies surrounding Mickey Cohen. And Penn’s depiction of him becomes over the top, bordering on cartoonish at times, almost like a villain you’d see in Dick Tracy or The Mask.  However, the individual performances by Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling are endearing, fun and who doesn’t love a handsome man in a zoot suit? When it comes to Emma Stone, I find myself in a bit of a quandary.  On one hand, for being such a talented actress she is underwritten and underused throughout the film. However, when I think of a 1940s Los Angeles glam gal like Lana Turner or Rita Hayworth, Emma Stone doesn’t come to mind.   

Gangster Squad is a fun time at the movies, if you don’t take the movie too seriously and can suspend reality for two hours (frequent scenes have a hail of tommygun bullets directly shot at someone—but they somehow miss their target). Overall it’s worth a discount matinee.

Rated R

In theatres January 11th

1 hour 50 minutes