Cocktails & Movies Review: “Gangster Squad” – It’s Gangbusters!!!

Cocktails & Movies review Gangster SquadIt’s LA, 1949. The Big One (WWII – World War 2 for those who don’t understand Roman numerals) is over, but LA is on a war footing… That’s the feel that you get from the movie “Gangster Squad.”  It’s a pretty good movie, with great acting, fantastic “old LA” cinematography and great locations that make you feel as if you are in the golden years of the City of Angels.

The film opens as Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) has solidified his hold on LA crime, removing the Chicago mob ties and claiming the turf for his own empire. With a payroll that includes judges, police, the LA Sheriff’s department and just about everyone else, LAPD Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) tasks Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) to disrupt and destroy Cohen’s growing menace. Chief Parker likens Cohen’s operation to enemy occupation and this resonates with O’Mara. O’Mara is a decorated WWII veteran and he doesn’t seem to exist without a war to fight. He puts together his team, which includes current era prerequisites such as a black cop (played very well by Anthony Mackie) and a Hispanic cop (Michael Pena). It also includes Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick and Ryan Gosling.

Each member has their own reasons for fighting, but the purpose of the fight is to rid LA of Cohen, which can be seen as America returning to search for its manifest destiny, which had to take time off for the Great Depression and that pesky World War II. It’s one of the last places in the U.S. at the time that had open spaces for everyone to carve a niche. But, that delight of open, clean skies and open spaces shudders under the shadow the omnipresent Cohen.

Because every gangster movie has to have a dame, we get Emma Stone, who is cast perfectly, but is never given a chance to really take the character out for a ride. The one female figure that is intriguing and keeps Sgt. O’Mara grounded is Mireille Enos (who still carries over a little of the strength and drive from AMC’s “The Killing.”), as the wife who wants him to get out, but will help him to put together the team that will get her husband home safe.

“Gangster Squad” is somewhat formulaic, but in the end it’s actually quite a fun movie. It’s a great mix of action and story, with a bit of humor for good measure. Gosling is good and the girls just a few rows over swooned every time he was onscreen or smiled. Penn as Mickey Cohen is a bit wooden and not overly original for such a dark, looming figure. It’s Brolin, as the brooding, crusading former soldier that moves through this movie like Ahab, searching for his white whale. It nothing that we haven’t seen in a movie about LA gangsters before (“LA Confidential”), but it is one that we thoroughly enjoyed with a few cocktails.

Cocktails & Movies Rating: Two cocktails, a beer and a shot! (a fun movie to enjoy)