Over-the-top action flick reinvigorates gangster genre

(From left) Michael Pena, Ryan Gosling, Robert Patrick, Anthony Mackie and Josh Brolin in a scene from the movie Gangster Squad.
(From left) Michael Pena, Ryan Gosling, Robert Patrick, Anthony Mackie and Josh Brolin in a scene from the movie Gangster Squad. Wilson Webb / Warner Bros

STYLISH, violent, watchable - this movie updates the classic gangster genre by throwing every film noir and pulp fiction device at the screen.

The result is a generous wallop of gun battles, steamy affairs, bad language and every other element that makes up the gangster/crime genre.

Sure, not all the critics liked Gangster Squad, now on DVD, some slamming it for being looks-conscious and brutal.

And, yes it is. But, in truth, the violence is in keeping with the subject matter, although this film is not for the squeamish or for children, and the sets and costumes are visually slick but simply double the appeal.

It's 1949 in Los Angeles and mob king Mickey Cohen, played with cartoonish malice by Sean Penn, is determined to run the city.

In fact, he already does and he's got plenty of cops and officials in his pocket.

So a secret police squad, headed by a former Second World War vet, John O'Mara (played by Josh Brolin), is set up to take Cohen down - and not by the rulebook but mainly by the bullet and the fist.

Director Ruben Fleischer doesn't hold back on either the tale or the action scenes and a bevy of top Hollywood actors bring his excessive vision to life.

It's over-the-top but always entertaining and it reinvigorates the gangster genre as effectively as Viagra.

Think pulpy crime meets hard-boiled fiction with plenty of shoot 'em up and a particularly nasty scene, right at the beginning, where a character who has fallen foul of Cohen's crew is killed between two cars.

Gangster Squad's heroes include not only the charismatic Brolin but character actor Giovanni Ribisi, Hollywood "it" boy Ryan Gosling (who both play good guys) and screen sweetheart Emma Stone who plays Cohen's girlfriend.

Surprisingly, Gosling doesn't steal the show. But it could be the slightly odd, high-pitched voice he talks in throughout the movie.

Brolin, by contrast, is all macho, righteous, action and family man.

Topics:  entertainment film hollywood movies

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