It may not have made much at the box office, but Gangster Squad was definitely a major release. As is always the question with an all-star cast, just how much does it live up expectations?

Gangster Squad, based on a true story, wages a brutal war against the infamous gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), who wreaked havoc on Los Angeles during the 1940s. The movie starts with a fearless sergeant, John O’Mara (Josh Brolin), tearing onto the screen, breaking jaws and dislocating bones throughout Cohen’s turf. Despite O’Mara’s violent singlehanded attacks against Cohen, he is unable to make a dent in Cohen’s illegal operations due to the deep corruption of L.A. That’s when the last honest chief of police, Parker (gravel-voiced Nick Nolte), summons O’Mara for an off-the-books onslaught. O’Mara assembles a team of ruthless but honest cops—including ladies’ man Jerry (Ryan Gosling), who sweeps the female audience away with his sweet talk and hot-headed temper. The team of covert gunslingers rampages through the streets of Los Angeles without badges and rules; instead, they run with unlimited ammunition and an unquenchable thirst for blood and justice.

Gangster Squad makes for a classic cop action movie, with good humour, exhilarating action, and a solid plot to get you through the movie. The star-studded cast mostly proves their worth, and director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) successfully recreates the flashy 1940s with accurate wardrobes, bulky automobiles, and eye-pleasing venues. Fleischer also captures the moral struggle of the characters in their war.  The humour is rare but hilarious. As well, as the team of off-the-record cops wreaks carnage against Mickey Cohen and his operations, they endure losses that emotionally tug at the audience.

Penn owns the role of Cohen. The prosthetic makeup exaggerates his face to resemble a pit bull and to match his monstrous behaviour on screen. One of Cohen’s most prized possessions is his beautiful girlfriend, Grace Faraday (Emma Stone), who he keeps on a short leash but who is quickly stolen by the suave Jerry. Another standout of the cast is Brolin, who takes charge of the cast and perfectly embodies an experienced war veteran tired of the city being corrupted by power-hungry gangsters.

After the devastating Aurora movie theatre shooting a few months ago, Fleischer chose to reshoot a gunfight that originally took place in a theatre. It now takes place in L.A.’s Chinatown instead in order to respect the families and friends of those who lost their lives in Aurora.

Aside from a few minor plot holes here and there, Gangster Squad is a movie guaranteed to please all types of movie goers. From bloody fistfights and explosive car chases to romantic evenings and hilarious fumbles, this movie will likely please both the action fanatics and romantic dreamers. MMM