Gangster Squad Reviews
The first bit of the movie sets up Josh Brolin's character well, giving us his moral code and family life. While this movie is about the squad, Brolin shares the main spotlight with Ryan Gossling, who slides in as my favorite character. 2nd to Sean Penn who is vicious and sells that gangster like it's HIS movie and not a movie about taking him down. The rest of the (truly) ensemble cast are still a group of talented individuals playing characters that work their way from a sort of bumbling team to precise.
Critics say it falls short of anything notable except LA Noir. One can see shortcomings upon examination, as in any film but I rarely focus on the negatives. The dialogue is seen as laughable but honestly captured the mind as being from a different time. The tone is also a point of contention, being funny with such serious subject matter. But Millennials love a touch of comedy in every aspect of life as it keeps it enjoyable. Is it a serious look at the time and subject matter like LA Confidential? No. It's simple and delivered with ease like a pizza. I was completely wrapped in it throughout
Inspired by true events chronicled by Paul Lieberman, former L.A. homicide detective Will Beall screenplay should be a pulpy, gritty and rich with insider police knowledge crime drama but alas the content falls on the side of superficial lore and plummets into gangster movie clichés.
With minimal consideration for dramatic layering, character complexity and political nuance, the jazzy atmosphere created is easily watchable but just as easily forgettable. Squandering its talented supporting cast ringers with one-dimensional stereotypical characters as the main leads are the only ones to get there moment in the limelight.
Los Angeles 1949, ex-boxer turned crime king pin, Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) ruthlessly controls an ever expanding syndicate of drugs, guns, extortion and prostitution. With and equal balance of hired-goons and key office officials in his payroll, Cohen is reaps the rewards of his ill-gotten gains whilst planning his financial end-game as the only wire-bet service west of Chicago. His berserk erratic outbursts evidence of how fearless he is of retribution or contention.
But Police Chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte) isn't ready to roll over. Commissioning decorated army officer turn sergeant, John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) to set up a secret crew of LAPD officers to not kill Cohen but pulverize his illegal industries, it is his pregnant wife Connie (Mireille Enos) recruitment advice that leads to strategic magic. No names. No badges. No mercy.
Rejecting the forces choir-boys in favor of a ragtag troupe of specialists, O'Mara seeks out the services of a wire-tap specialist (Giovanni Ribisi), a go-getter (Anthony Mackie), a sharp-shooter (Robert Patrick) and his over-eager apprentice (Michael Peña) but the ace up his sleeve would prove to be his swaggering friend Wooters (Ryan Gosling).
Reluctant at first, it is only after Wooters sees Cohen's brutal aggression up-close and engages in a romantic relationship with his "etiquette tutor" come mistress, Grace (Emma Stone) that he joins the team. Tasked by O'Mara's wife to keep their fearless leader from crossing into dark territory, moral compass Wooters must find a way to bring Cohen without getting Grace caught in the crossfire.
Sticking to modern political/patriotic sensibilities, this bullet-riddled bloodbath ultra-violent melodrama paints the gangster/law enforcement conflicts in its most simplistic terms. After the shooting-incidents of last year, some pivotal shots have been redone a little lighter and more digestible leaving everything about this film is decent but nothing about it as great.
Square-jawed Brolin is at his squeaky-clean best targeting the heavy-hitting and highly talented Penn (Sadly this character has been altered greatly from the real person, which if had have been considered more closely would have been far more engaging). Fast-talking Gosling in the quintessential playboy flirting with danger whilst hopelessly in-love with the sensational attention-commanding femme fatale Stone. Nolte delivers authority, Patrick brings hutzpah, Ribisi has the brains, whilst Peña and Mackie have the required ethnical elements (even if it is in direct discord with the timing).
The Verdict: Gratifying, gruesome, gangsters and Gosling, this easy-watching movie is simply that.
Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 19/01/2013