There is nothing like a dame and the seductress at the centre of Ruben Fleischer’s stylish crime thriller to send temperatures soaring.
She beds two men on opposite sides of the law and ignites a powder keg of jealousy that threatens to raze 1940s Los Angeles to its corrupt foundations.
Based on the real-life battle for the streets of California’s most populated city, Gangster Squad conjures memories of The Untouchables with its tug-of-war between men who live by a badge and hoodlums who operate with their own twisted sense of morality.
In the wake of the shooting at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, film-makers chose to remove this set piece entirely and added a newly conceived gunfight on the streets of Chinatown.
The bloodbath has gone, but Fleischer’s picture doesn’t skimp on wince-inducing brutality.
In an opening salvo, a henchman is tethered between two cars which screech off in opposite directions and pull the sap in two.
The maniacal kingpin behind this bloodshed is one-time boxer Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), who rules over Los Angeles with his gang.
Police chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte) is powerless to stop the rise of this criminal fraternity so he approaches Sergeant John O‘Mara (Josh Brolin) to establish a covert team of officers who are willing not only to bend the law but also to break it in order to crush Cohen.
O’Mara recruits his good friend Sergeant Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) and cops Rocky Washington (Anthony Mackie), Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi) and Max Kennard (Robert Patrick) for this dangerous assignment as part of the newly formed Gangster Squad.
In turn Kennard introduces a sharp-shooting protege, Navidad Ramirez (Michael Pena), and the scene is set for a battle royale between the team and the hoodlums.
The mission is compromised when suave ladies’ man Wooters falls under the spell of actress Grace Faraday (Emma Stone).
But one night of lust would sign Grace’s death warrant, should Cohen ever discover her betrayal.
Gangster Squad trades style over substance, but Fleischer's dramatisation of bullet-riddled history has its undeniable pleasures.