2012 Certificate: 15


As notorious LA mobster Mickey Cohen, Sean Penn leads a stellar cast through this all-guns-blazing thriller from the director of Zombieland. It's 1949 and the Brooklyn-born Cohen is close to turning Los Angeles into his own bullet-strewn empire, powered by drugs, vice and corruption. In retaliation, the LAPD appoints straight arrow Sgt John O'Hara (Josh Brolin) to form a covert unit to rid the city of the East Coast scourge. Ryan Gosling, Michael Pena, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick and Giovanni Ribisi play O'Hara's fellow incorruptibles while Emma Stone is a fatale temptation for one of them as Cohen's moll.


  • Ruben Fleischer


  • Sean Penn

  • Josh Brolin

  • Ryan Gosling

  • Emma Stone

  • Giovanni Ribisi

  • Robert Patrick

  • Nick Nolte


"This isn't Chicago," growls Mickey Cohen, the man who would be crime king of post-war California, "it's the Wild West."

Which pretty much nails the attitude of Ruben Fleischer's macho mob caper, a trigger-happy blast of testosterone that effectively transplants The Untouchables to LA.

Josh Brolin is O'Hara, a pillar of integrity in a distinctly crooked LAPD. It's this, er, eliotness, combined with a willingness to fight fire with fire, that makes O'Hara the only man police chief Carter (Nick Nolte) can trust to build a taskforce on the hush-hush to run Cohen out of town.

It's going to be a dirty job, and O'Hara's pregnant wife (Mireille Enos, star of the US version of The Killing) ain't happy about it. But with her help, O'Hara quickly rounds up a posse of untouchable types.

On Connery duty, we have Robert Patrick's veteran gunslinger Kennard, Michael Pena fills Andy Garcia's shoes as Hispanic livewire Ramirez and Giovanni Ribisi takes the nerdy Charles Martin Smith role as wiretap expert Keeler.

With Anthony Mackie's beat cop Harris in charge of wisecracks, it's left to Ryan Gosling to play the enigmatic one as O'Hara's fellow sergeant Jerry Wooters, a cool customer with a reckless streak who takes an ill-advised interest in Cohen's trophy girlfriend Grace (Emma Stone).

Naturally, Mickey does not react well when his heroin shipments, gambling dens and money laundering operations go up in smoke.

But despite bringing on another attack of the unmentionables ("Kill them all! Kill their families! Kill their dogs! Kill their kids!"), Penn's ex-boxer Mickey looks and acts less like De Niro's Capone than Al Pacino's Big Boy Caprice, the rubber-faced nemesis of Dick Tracy.

Of course, nobody is as scary as Nolte, who is now grizzlier than any bear on the planet. But unlike Penn and almost everybody else, he is not required to engage in any of the old-school rough stuff which Fleischer dishes out with Zombieland levels of splatter.

Adapted by ex-homicide cop Will Beall (whose next assignments are Lethal Weapon 5 and the hotly anticipated Justice League) from the real life 'Gangster Squad' chronicles of journalist Paul Lieberman, this is no place for girls.

Really it isn't. Because while Stone certainly sexes up the marketing campaign, Grace is a woefully underwritten femme fatale. The prospect of seeing Stone reunited with her Crazy, Stupid, Lover Gosling was promising, but here she is but a token smear of lip gloss on a screenplay that would rather grab your attention by smashing you in the face with a heavy-handed metaphor.

The script does, however, have a good sense deadpan humour. It also gives Fleischer every opportunity to go for the adrenals, which he does via a rip-roaring barrage of gunplay and fisticuffs, and a particularly camera-defying car chase.

It might not be much easier to buy than a 1950s True Detective comic, but this is as slick and explosive as a barrel of high-octane hair oil.

Elliott Noble