But again, if something more realistic is what you're looking for, go watch “L.A. Confidential” again.
The titular Gangster Squad is put together when the LAPD chief Parker (Nick Nolte) sees the encroaching power of carpet bagging East Coast gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) as “enemy occupation.”
The “soul of Los Angeles” is at stake, he declares, and he wants Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) to lead a squad of cops off-the-books as they knock the legs out from under Cohen's rapidly growing empire.
Given he's constantly feeling hamstringed by the day-to-day regulations of being a regular cop, O'Mara is eager to go under the radar and bust as many heads as necessary to clean up the streets, even with the protestations and cries of his pregnant wife.
Joining him is Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), who at first seems more interested in boozing it up and cavorting in the sheets with Cohen's girl, Grace (Emma Stone), as well as officers Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie), Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi), Navidad Ramirez (Michael Pena) and Max Kennard (Robert Patrick). Together, they effectively put the boot to Cohen's operation thanks to some rather ruthless guerilla tactics.
This is why director Ruben Fleisher should thank his lucky stars for such a sturdy cast. They manage to spin decent characters out of next to nothing. It's a murderer's row of some of my favorite supporting actors (Mackie and Pena should most certainly be bigger names , and the world always needs more Robert Patrick and Holt McCallany) and they all do the best they can, Patrick especially with his mustachioed gunslinger. Brolin mostly left me wishing someone would make another “Dick Tracy” movie and cast him in the title role. His square, iron jaw would fit the part like a glove, especially given how well he wears a fedora in this. Penn, meanwhile, attacks his role as though he actually were in a “Dick Tracy” flick. It's not often we get to see the guy just sort of toss the gloves off and crank things up to “11” but he really seems to relish the somewhat campy nature of Cohen's character as written here.
Actually, it wouldn't surprise me at all if “Dick Tracy” (both the comic strip and the movie) were a big inspiration for Fleisher here. The film is rated R, yet Fleisher seems to go out of his way to make the movie feel as cartoonish as possible. Whether it's the performances by Penn and Nolte or the gratuitous (and borderline garish) use of slow-mo or the color palette, this is pure popcorn fluff.
It's hard to know what more to really say about “Gangster Squad” because there's really not much to it. I had fun watching it as I was sitting in the theater but have felt little compulsion to think about it or dissect it in any meaningful way since the credits rolled.
In other words, unless you're simply dying for a fix of tommy guns and fedoras, best to wait for a rental on this one.