Gangster Squad Movie Poster Image

Gangster Squad



Very violent tale of LAPD's real-life war against the mob.
Popular with kids
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 113 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive 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.

Positive 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.


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.


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

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & 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.

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 BrolinRyan GoslingEmma Stone, and Nick Nolte as the police chief who makes it his mission to run the mob out of town.

What's the story?

Los Angeles, 1949: The mob has gained a foothold, especially violent ex-boxer gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), who's got the cops and judges completely in his pocket ... except for straight-arrow John O'Mara (Josh Brolin), who never got the memo and happily takes on any and all of Cohen's boys, even when other policemen whisper that everyone knows to leave Mickey's operations alone. With Cohen making plans to take over the entire West Coast gambling racket, O'Mara recruits a band of like-minded officers (played by Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, and Giovanni Ribisi) to form a secret GANGSTER SQUAD. Their mission: Take Cohen down, by any means necessary.

Is it any good?


A juicy, jazzy, good-versus-bad movie is a sight to behold, and Gangster Squad certainly fits the bill. It provides enough of the good stuff -- gorgeous clothes, swingy pacing, thrilling face-offs, and actors with pizzazz (hello, Ryan Gosling) -- to make it work. But as 1997's similarly themed L.A. CONFIDENTIAL proved, this kind of movie can also be complex, and that's what's missing in Gangster Squad, which is enjoyable but superficial. It looks noir, and it sometimes feels like noir, but there's no noir there.

What consumes Cohen? What drives him to rule and kill? (Surely there's more to it than bloodlust from a former boxing champ.) Why is O'Mara willing to set aside his noble lawfulness to go after Cohen? (Surely there's more to it than being a war veteran who wants the streets of L.A. to be safe for his newborn.) Ribisi's character, who joins O'Mara's vigilante team, hints at some of the deep conflicts that might have afflicted the likes of O'Mara, but the movie shies away from exploring it too much. It's a shame.

Families can talk about...

  • 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 11, 2013
DVD/Streaming release date:April 23, 2013
Cast:Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn
Director:Ruben Fleischer
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:113 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong violence and language

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Kid, 10 years old January 13, 2013


What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent Written byShivom Oza January 10, 2013

Gangster Squad (2013) Review by Shivom Oza – Enthralling Actioner!

3/5 Stars Los Angeles, circa 1949, Brooklyn-born gang lord Mickey Cohen runs the show in Los Angeles. With the police and the politicians under his thumb, Cohen has been reaping the ill-gotten gains from his businesses in drugs, guns and prostitutes, and the occasional wire bets placed west of Chicago. This is until a group of five men, from LAPD, take it upon themselves to rid Los Angeles of Cohen. The trailer of the film, which was released sometime around June last year, created quite a stir amongst the audiences. The film itself, sadly, doesn’t quite match up to the electrifying promo. However, for all its intense action sequences, impeccable costumes, witty dialogues and superlative performances, ‘Gangster Squad’ is certainly worth a watch. It’s an ode to the great Hollywood mafia films of the 70s and the 80s. Doesn’t quite cut it like them, but ends up being an enjoyable ride anyway. So, Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) has been terrorizing everyone and anyone in Los Angeles, his own men notwithstanding. His act in the film, involves beating his foes to pulp (although, he maintains his boxing days are behind him), womanizing (his latest moll is the gorgeous Grace Faraday (Emma Stone)), dining with chief justices and politicians and tightening them under the noose, while going about handling his prospering ‘illegal’ businesses. The people fear him and the establishment is intimidated by him. Thus, comes the moment of reckoning for Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin). A tough cop, John doesn’t get bogged down by Cohen or his men. Strong enough to overpower three goons at a time and as honest as a mirror, John is summoned by Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) to ditch his police badge and head a group of vigilantes to not KILL, but destroy and eventually drive Cohen out of Los Angeles. So, here they are, the loving husband John O’ Mara (his pregnant wife Connie O'Mara (Mireille Enos) doesn’t seem to agree), Det. Navidad Ramirez (hilarious, watch out for his lines) (Michael Peña), Det. Conway Keeler (great father-son track involving him) (Giovanni Ribisi), tough nut Det. Rocky Washington (Anthony Mackie), Det. Max Kennard (old-but-sharp) (Robert Patrick) and the inimitable Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling). Together, this ‘gangster squad’ wreaks havoc on Cohen and his men. Sean Penn is terrific as the menacing gang lord Michael Cohen. The diction, the dressing, the swagger and the evil instinct is very much inherent in the leading antagonist and Sean pulls the character off with élan. Josh Brolin is terrific as John O’ Mara. Understated during the emotional scenes, and belligerent in the action sequences, Josh delivers a fine performance. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone share sparkling chemistry. Emma’s introductory scene, where she is being regaled by the charming Ryan, is delightful. The dialogues in this film are beyond brilliant. Here are a few exhibits, Wordplay between Ryan’s Jerry and Emma’s Grace – Grace - What’s your racket, handsome? Jerry - I’m a Bible salesman. Grace - You wanna take me away from all this and make an honest woman out of me ? Jerry - No, Ma’m. I was just hoping to take you to bed. Yet Another - Cohen’s Man – I’m so sorry Mr.Cohen. That will never happen again. I swear to God. Sean Penn’s Cohen – You’re talking to God, so you might as well swear to me. It’s not just the lines, but the way they look on-screen. The costumes and the sets are terrific, offering that irreplaceable nostalgia of the classic ‘gangster’ films. There are moments in the film, where the relentless action may irk you a bit, but thankfully, it does not overstay its welcome. At just under two hours, the film is paced quite well and manages to keep you engaged. Director Ruben Fleischer has made an enjoyable film. Full of pulp, this! There are a few inconsistencies, which mar the plot, such as the basic concept of ‘six men waging war against countless criminals’, the fact that Cohen never gets the squad killed despite knowing their whereabouts, and Grace moving in and out of her romantic liaison with Jerry so conveniently among a few more. However, the film, in essence, doesn’t make you wrack your brains over the plot. ‘Gangster Squad’ is a linear story, told in the most entertaining manner. It’s a one-time watch! Shivom Oza
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 11 years old January 23, 2013

Okay for pre teens but some no

Looks violent and also has strong language But mature 11 year olds can see this action packed film Which has a educational value you learn about the mob life and bad is it To now
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex