Micky Cohen, a ruthless east coast gangster, runs the streets of Los Angeles during the late 1940s. Cohen has paid off all the right people, giving him free reign to distribute drugs, guns, and prostitution with his ultimate goal being to take over every wire bet placed west of Chicago. All of this combined makes it extremely hard for anyone to bring Cohen to justice, with Cohen having his hand in every level of the system from cops to judges. Sgt. John O'Mara, a tough, valiant man who just returned from the war, doesn't fear Micky and with approval from the police chief, one of the few men who isn't corrupt, John sets up small covert police force to go after Cohen, using any means necessary to get the job done. Ruben Fleischer's Gangster Squad is a gangster drama that provide very little substance outside of the fluffy but entertaining gang world which the world creates. The film does have a lot of drama from John's heroism getting in the way of him and his family to the moral ambiguities of fighting fire with fire, yet almost all of the thematic discussions and dramatic themes which the film creates feel lazy and ultimately uninspired. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why I felt this way but I think Gangster Squad is a perfect example of a film that tells the viewer its thematic intentions instead of going out and earning them. Another real issue I had with the film is the digital photography. The casual filmgoer probably won't even notice the difference but I found it to be one of the best arguments for why film shouldn't die. Gangster Squad showcases almost every problem with the digital format, particularly during the night time action scenes. In the end, Gangster Squad is a lot of fluff, but I can't say I didn't enjoy it. The performances all around are enjoyable from Robert Patrick to Sean Penn's quite entertaining turn as Mickey Cohen. Gangster Squad is an enjoyable film that flounders when it tries to be pensive and while I still don't think Ruben Fleischer is very good at directing action, it's a decent way to waste two hours.
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