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Gangster Squad Review Critics


Dave White Profile

Playing cops and robbers. Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 3.0

    out of 100

    Mixed or average reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 30

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    Mr. Beall, a former LAPD cop, has written a script so devoid of feeling that the cartoons blur into thin line drawings, while what's been done with the marvelous Ms. Stone - i.e. next to nothing - is downright criminal.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    In the last five minutes the film shifts gears and offers a tribute to law enforcement. But this tacked-on resolution is as sticky and fake as Sean Penn's make-up job.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    Brolin and Gosling are both supposed to be playing World War II veterans who bring their knowledge of battle into the tough turf of the streets, but that's just a concept that the sketchy, half-baked script tosses out there.

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  • 60

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Todd McCarthy

    Made up of synthetics rather than whole cloth, this lurid concoction superficially gets by thanks to a strong cast and jazzy period detail, but its cartoonish contrivances fail to convince and lack any of the depth, feeling or atmosphere of genre stand-bearers like "L.A. Confidential."

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Pause for kids 16 & under

Very violent tale of LAPD's real-life war against the mob.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Gangster Squad is based on the real-life exploits of crime boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), who -- with his gangster pals -- brazenly runs brothels, casinos, drug dens, and betting operations under the protection of corrupt cops, judges, and politicians ... until a secret crew of cops bands together to take Cohen out. Expect nonstop brutal violence, including several huge gunfights that result in dozens dead or wounded, as well as intense fistfights (with wince-inducing sound effects) that leave participants beaten to a pulp, a harrowing near-rape, and several episodes of torture (a character is pulled apart by two vehicles, another is pounded with a mallet-like device, and one is killed with a power drill). Many scenes also feature people drinking and smoking cigarettes, and language includes various permutations of "f--k." The star-studded cast also features Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Nick Nolte as the police chief who makes it his mission to run the mob out of town.

  • Families can talk about the gangster squad's methods. Do the ends justify the means? Is it OK for them to basically wage war against the mob on the city streets, instead of using legal means such as warrants and due process?
  • How does the violence in Gangster Squad compare to what you might see in a horror movie? Which has more impact? Why?
  • Gangster Squad is based on real-life events. What do you think about a town that's as brazenly corrupt as this version of Los Angeles in 1949?

The good stuff
  • message true2

    Messages: There's often a stiff price to pay for doing what's right, especially when everyone else is willing to look the other way and ignore evil, to take the easy path, and let bad guys get away with whatever they want. John O'Mara and the rest of the gangster squad take great risks to fight the mob and don't get recognition for their accomplishments, but in the end their biggest reward is knowing they did the right thing and made the city a better place.

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: O'Mara takes no prisoners in his lopsided fight against the Los Angeles mob. He's outgunned and gets almost no support from his colleagues in the corrupt LAPD, but he refuses to back down, even when it means risking his life. It's worth examining whether his actions -- including completely ignoring any semblance of due process to wage war on the mob -- are justified by his worthy goals.

What to watch for
  • violence false5

    Violence: Near non-stop brutal, often-bloody violence as the gangster squad takes on the mob. Gunfights in city streets look more like small wartime battles, with dozens of men blasting away with machine guns, handguns, and even hand grenades. Some people are killed execution style, with gunshots to the head at close range, and others are tortured on screen (dragged apart by two vehicles, pounded with a mallet-like device, killed with a power drill), with bloody bodies/spatters shown. Several intense fist fights (with wince-inducing sound effects) leave participants battered and bloody. One near-rape.

  • sex false2

    Sex: A mostly unclothed couple is shown kissing and bantering in bed. Several references to prostitution, including a corrupt judge who likes to spend time with hookers. The gangsters are involved in running brothels.

  • language false4

    Language: Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "c--k," "ass," "whore," "hell," "son of a bitch," "damn," "goddamn," and more.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not applicable

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Several characters smoke cigarettes, as was common during the period. People also drink wine, champagne, and beer at nightclubs and parties and sometimes move on to harder liquor. A few of the hardened cops and mobsters pull from hip flasks, and men sometimes sit down with several stiff drinks after an intense experience or tragedy. The gangsters are involved in the drug trade.