FILM FANS: Even the great cast couldn't save 'Gangster Squad'

EDITOR'S NOTE: Film Fans features local residents reviewing the movie of the week: "Gangster Squad." Want to be a film fan? Email features@gwinnettdailypost.com.

2 and 1/2 out of 4 stars

In "Gangster Squad," the latest retelling of political and criminal corruption in 1940's L.A., we're once again introduced to Mickey Cohen, one of the most notorious gangsters of that era. However, unlike the far superior "L.A. Confidential," Cohen isn't simply mentioned in passing. He serves as the main course for what becomes a very violent feast of guns, guts and glory.

Sean Penn plays the sadistic gangster bent on owning every illegal operation on the West Coast and having as many law enforcement officials in his pocket as possible. Josh Brolin plays John O'Mara, one of a few elite cops that can't be bought. He -- along with a secret group of LAPD cops -- is under strict orders by the chief of police to completely shatter Cohen's operation and run him out of town.

The cast, including Ryan Gosling, superb as always, re-teaming with the always-loveable Emma Stone, is truly a dream cast. Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick and Nick Nolte all turn in stellar performances. While the writing may be thin and Penn's performance slightly cartoonish, it doesn't quite veer into "Dick Tracy" territory. It may not be Oscar worthy, but it's worth escaping reality for a couple of hours.

-- Ron Adams, Statham

1 and 1/2 out of 4 stars

As a big fan of gangster movies going all the way back to Jimmy Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, I have been eagerly waiting for the release of this movie, mostly because of the previews and the ensemble cast. Unfortunately, it didn't even come close to my expectations. I actually felt as if I was on a blind date that didn't quite meet my expectations.

There are some bright spots, however, like Sean Penn's performance which is, once again, both menacing and disturbing, as Mickey Cohen, a West Coast implant from the notorious Jewish Mafia from New York who seeks to dominate and control Los Angeles, including the police and the politicians. Otherwise, it is just a weak attempt to join the ranks of other, much better, films like "Goodfellas," "The Untouchables" and "The Godfather."

Now enters Police Chief Nick Nolte, who is frustrated with the crime and corruption surrounding him, and decides to hire a gang of his own without actually getting his own hands dirty. The leader of the pack is Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin), who assembles a band of enforcers, a la "The Untouchables," to do whatever it takes to stop Mickey Cohen, whether it's legal or not. The movie then migrates to a rash of inane dialog, a never-ending hail of gunfire and endless confrontations.

If you're a fan of crime films with endless violence, a splash of cute comments and very little else, this one's for you. Definitely deserves it's "R" rating, and definitely not for the kids.

-- Steve Kalberg, Lawrenceville

1 out of 4 stars

"Gangster Squad" is ambitious in its attempt to do what other great mob films before it have done, except it fails miserably in a shallow pool of cold, hard blood. Unfortunately, I had to find this out the hard way.

With the title of "Gangster Squad" that has the potential to be as awesome as the name implies, I expected well-developed characters, amusing dialogue and writing that is above sub-par quality. Instead, what I got was boring, flat-lined characters, forgettable dialogue and a plot structure that was as predictable as the "Public Enemy" masquerade. It was just too flashy. The violence tried to cover for the bad writing, and the bad writing didn't help the actors develop characters into the effective performances we hoped for.

Enough is enough. Save your hard-earned money for a movie that actually deserves to be as trivially violent as this was, like "Django Unchained." You may be offended, but at least you'll be entertained.

-- Michael Gorgoglione, Dacula