by Eric D. Snider
Released: January 11, 2013
If "Gangster Squad" had been released last September, as originally scheduled, it would have been forgotten by now. There's a good chance it would have been forgotten by October. Instead, after some reshoots to avoid a coincidental resemblance to last July's Aurora movie theater massacre, it takes its rightful place in January, the graveyard of generically cartoony action misfires, never to be spoken of again.
Set in 1949 and taking its inspiration (vaguely, one gathers) from a true story, "Gangster Squad" tells of the Los Angeles Police Department's efforts to bring down notorious criminal Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), a hamburger-faced ex-boxer who's affiliated with the Chicago mafia but has gone rogue in his zeal to control all of L.A. Having secured the support of numerous dirty cops, Cohen freely operates casinos, prostitution rings, and other rackets, dispatching his enemies with impunity. And sometimes with puns. Mickey Cohen is the sort of comic-strip villain who tells his henchmen, "You know the drill," signifying that they are to use an electric drill to murder somebody. Kudos to the henchmen, who have learned to listen carefully to their boss' offhand remarks and decipher from them what method of death he prefers.
The only man with the guts to stand up to this menace is Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin), a square-jawed cop and crusading hero whose first act in the film is to save a naive, fresh-off-the-bus-from-Kansas girl from Cohen's pimps. O'Mara is tired of looking the other way while Cohen turns L.A. into a cesspool, and is thrilled when the police chief (Nick Nolte) notices his efforts and tells him to gather a secret task force to destroy Cohen's operation -- a "gangster squad," if you will.
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Rated R, some very graphic violence, a lot of profanity
1 hr., 53 min.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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