This may be based on a true story, but the filmmakers never bother exploring the complexities of historical events, instead opting for a comic book-style approach that's entertaining but somewhat unsatisfying. Still, this style-over-substance approach at least produces a rollicking police thriller that's often a lot of fun to watch, packed with gifted actors who gleefully chomp through the scenery.
The setting is 1949 Los Angeles, where the notorious gangster Mickey Cohen (Penn) is launching a Chicago-style mob takeover of the city. The police chief (Nolte) is determined to stop him, but feels surrounded by corruption, so he hires straight-arrow detective John (Brolin) to head up a secret squad that will operate off the books to stop Cohen, whatever it takes. John's pregnant wife (Enos) isn't thrilled by this, but she helps him select his team: techie Conway (Ribisi), gunslinger Max (Patrick), hot-shot Coleman (Mackie) and quick-learning rookie Navidad (Pena). And then there's pretty-boy detective Jerry (Gosling), who courts danger by launching a fling with Mickey's moll Grace (Stone). Understandably, their task doesn't go smoothly.
Billed as the untold story of what really happened, the film ignores quite a few key facts while indulging in implausible plotting and overly colourful characterisations. In other words, it's impossible to believe anything we're watching, which eliminates all of the relevance and resonance that could have filled this story of police corruption, out-of-control capitalism and especially the use of illegal methods to do the right thing. Instead, the film is all shiny surfaces, with flashy production design, too-immaculate costumes and haircuts, and a plot that reduces a complex situation into a simplistic action movie narrative.
But there's a lot of fun to be had along the way, from the wildly inventive action scenes (such as a whooshing car chase in the pitch dark) to a hint of sexy chemistry between Gosling and Stone. And Penn hams it up marvellously, injecting some actorly heft along the way. But then everyone overplays their roles shamelessly, striking cool poses and barking out iconic lines that may keep us smiling but make us wonder about the clearly more interesting truth buried under this colourful, energetic romp.
Run time: 113 mins
In Theaters: Friday 11th January 2013
Box Office USA: $46.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $105.2M
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Production compaines: Langley Park Production, Lin Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 32%
Fresh: 62 Rotten: 132
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Producer: Dan Lin, Kevin McCormick, Michael Tadross
Screenwriter: Will Beall
Starring: Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen, Ryan Gosling as Sgt. Jerry Wooters, Emma Stone as Grace Faraday, Josh Brolin as John O'Mara, Nick Nolte as Bill Parker, Giovanni Ribisi as Conway Keeler, Josh Pence as Darryl Gates, Frank Grillo as Jimmy reagan, Anthony Mackie as Coleman Harris, Robert Patrick as Max Kennard, Michael Peña as Navidad Ramirez, Mireille Enos as Connie O'Mara, Holt McCallany as Karl Lockwood, Wade Williams as Rourke, James Landry Hébert as Mitch Racine, Ambyr Childers as Milk Skinned Blonde, Mick Betancourt as Detective Sgt. Will Hendricks, Mac Brandt as Bruiser, Brandon Molale as Jimmy 'Bockscar' Knox, Michael Papajohn as Mike 'The Flea', Jeff Wolfe as Giovanni Vacarezza, Anthony Molinari as Lorenzo Molinari, Austin Highsmith as Patty, Neil Koppel as Max Solomon, Jack McGee as Lt. Quincannon, Evan Jones as Neddy Herbert, James Carpinello as Johnny Stomp, Troy Garity as Wrevock, Austin Abrams as Pete, John Aylward as Judge Carter, Dennis Cockrum as Elmer Jackson, Jack Conley as Sheriff Biscailuz, Yvette Tucker as Carmen Miranda, Derek Mears as Bridge Goon, Jonny Coyne as Grimes, Eva La Dare as Dancer
As with his Formula One documentary Senna, filmmaker Asaf Kapadia cleverly uses archival footage to...
This declining franchise really needed a jolt to the head, but the producers disappointingly opt...
Resisting the temptation to capitalise on the camp value of these characters, Channing Tatum and...
Wacky enough to make us smile but never laugh out loud, this screwball comedy harks...
A relentless onslaught of violent action, this movie is notable mainly because there's a woman...
First-time feature filmmaker John Maclean takes a strikingly original approach to the Western, creating a...
Despite this being a film about Sherlock Holmes, the fact that it's not much of...
Both shameless and shamelessly entertaining, this relentlessly boyish movie carries on exactly as the TV...