A triumph of production design but a pretty dull kill-'em-up otherwise, the post-
It's based partially on the real-life 1940s square-off between a secret cadre of
Josh Brolin, better than his material, narrates this highly fanciful bash, which denounces its heroes' methods of payback even as it celebrates the cinematic possibilities of gun-related violence. With the blessing of LA's valiant police chief (
Ryan Gosling, who never really seems to be acting in any period other than 2013, plays the lady-killer copper who falls for Cohen's mistress (
Some of these characters are based on the record, others are made up, and most of the dialogue is made of wood, befitting such rejoinders as: Let's give him "a permanent vacation in a pine box!" The template for "Gangster Squad," based on Paul Lieberman's nonfiction account and goosed up by screenwriter Will Beall, is clearly
The original cut of "Gangster Squad" featured a movie theater massacre, which was taken out and rewritten and re-shot in another location. You don't really notice the lurch in continuity, because although "Gangster Squad" boasts swell art direction (I love the nightclubs, Slapsy Maxie's and Club Figaro), it's really just a series of gory, impersonal tit-for-tat revenge killings. Only Penn's line readings feel completely fresh. He may be made up to look like Big Boy Caprice in "Dick Tracy." He may be playing a copy of a copy of a movie stereotype. But like Brolin, Penn seems to be living and breathing convincingly in another time, another place. Even if that place is a movie fantasy.