Dir: Ruben Fleischer. US. 2013. 113mins

Gangster Squad

Boasting a classy ensemble cast and an eye catching look, true crime tale Gangster Squad does an entertaining job telling the story of a band of cops who reclaim late forties Los Angeles from ruthless mobster Mickey Cohen. With careful marketing this lively - and pretty violent - action outing should produce decent grosses in a number of territories around the globe.

Director Ruben Fleischer keeps the tone fairly light, leavening the sometimes brutal violence and occasional drama with a steady supply of snappy comedic moments.

Distributor Warner (production partner Village Roadshow handles select territories) opens the film in the US, the UK and some other markets this week and elsewhere through January, February and March (the launch, originally set for last September, was moved because of changes made to some scenes after the Aurora cinema shooting). Business outside the US should be helped by the fact that several cast members have recently appeared in international-skewing hits.

The ‘inspired-by-a-true-story’ screenplay from Will Beall (a former detective now working on the upcoming Justice League) grounds the action in the optimism and opportunity of a fast-growing post-World War II Los Angeles. Cohen (played with relish by Sean Penn) is rapidly cornering the city’s gambling, prostitution and drug rackets with the help of police officials and politicians on his payroll. In a last ditch attempt to stop the city’s rot, LAPD sergeant John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) assembles a squad of outsider cops to wage a covert guerrilla war on the mobster and his henchmen.

Director Ruben Fleischer (best known for 2009 horror comedy Zombieland) keeps the tone fairly light, leavening the sometimes brutal violence and occasional drama with a steady supply of snappy comedic moments. The highly saturated look - reminiscent of art deco advertising imagery from the period - adds to the almost comic book feel. 

Brolin (most recently seen in Men In Black 3) is appealingly square jawed as former soldier O’Mara and Penn (from international over-performer The Tree Of Life) adeptly mixes menace with dark humour. Ryan Gosling (seen last year in Drive) plays O’Mara’s wise-cracking sidekick and Emma Stone (from The Amazing Spider-Man) is the glamourous moll. Enjoyable supporting turns come from Nick Nolte, Giovanni Ribisi (Ted), Robert Patrick (Safe House) and Mireille Enos (the US version of international TV hit The Killing). 

Production companies: Warner Bros Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures

International distribution: Warner Bros (select territories Village Roadshow)

Producers: Dan Lin, Kevin McCormick, Michael Tadross

Executive producers: Ruben Fleischer, Paul Lieberman, Bruce Berman

Screenplay: Will Beall, based on the book by Paul Lieberman

Cinematography: Dion Beebe

Editors: Alan Baumgarten, James Herbert

Production designer: Maher Ahmad

Music: Steve Jablonsky

Website: www.gangstersquad.warnerbros.com

Main cast: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Peña, Robert Patrick, Mireille Enos