Expectations are murder. With a dynamite cast (do Sean Penn and Josh Brolin ever fuck up?), and director Ruben Fleischer who inspired worship for “Zombieland”, you assume a new classic. What you get is an ambitious try. Yet “Gangster Squad” pulls the magician’s trick of distraction, offering enough superficial entertainment value with good use of locations, charismatic actors, and moments of shocking violence to divert attention from its faults. For some people, that may be enough. Others may leave the theater wondering why one of the three principal characters, played by Ryan Gosling, is never fully drawn, or why Emma Stone looks like Jessica Rabbit. Nevermind all that, the movie opens with Los Angeles police chief William H. Parker (Nick Nolte) hiring war veteran Josh Brolin to bring down ruthlessly ambitious gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn as good as always). His mission is to put together a secretive team of specialists (à la “Seven Samurai” and “The Magnificent Seven”) to do whatever it takes to bring Mickey and his business down. Not a bad idea for a gangster movie set in the 40’s if you ask me. Much violence ensues, as you would expect from it, with Fleischer staging the shootouts in high style with the invaluable aid of his cinematographer Dion Beebe. Overall, “Gangster Squad” is a solid gangster picture, but you can feel it straining for a greatness that stays out of reach. With so many strong ingredients, including a powerhouse cast, it should have hit the bull’s-eye. Instead, it settles for “entertaining”. Fair enough.