I am going to say something I don’t think I have ever said about a movie before: This movie needed to be 20 minutes longer. It runs slipshod over backgrounds, love stories and character development; so the second we are off and running, the audience has little emotional investment in the story. That being said, this is an exceptionally well-acted and--for the most part--entertaining film.

It’s 1949 and the infamous gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) has taken over Los Angeles. He has the police on the payroll and is poised to assume control of all aspects of organized crime in the city. The only thing standing in his way is police chief Parker (Nick Nolte), an honest man desperate to stop Cohen. He recruits Sergeant John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) to assemble a group of vigilante policemen to stop the reign of terror using any means necessary--hence the Gangster Squad. Meanwhile, O’Mara’s No. 2 man, Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), has fallen head over heels for Mickey’s girl, Grace (Emma Stone), further complicating the situation.

This movie has one big and very obvious problem: It doesn’t know what it wants to be. It’s 70-percent L.A. Confidential and 30-percent Dick Tracy. Any time the movie starts to settle into a dark stylized thriller, one character or another drops some hackneyed line or cracks an awkward joke, shattering the moment. I have to say even though it’s an interesting film, when you consider what it could have been, it’s a disappointment.

It’s a 7.

More Arts & Entertainment articles.