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Goons and guns: Gangster Squad movie review

Staff Writer

Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 17, 2013 18:01

MovieGangster Squad

Release Date: Jan. 11

Studio: Village Roadshow Pictures

Grade: C+


Ruben Fleischer’s (30 Minutes or Less) latest work comes in the form of an action-packed gangster film featuring a star-studded cast.  All the tools were at Fleischer’s disposal for an epic film, but his Gangster Squad failed to meet its full potential with a lackluster plot and underdeveloped characters. 

Gangster Squad takes place in Los Angeles in 1949, where prostitution, drugs and gambling have gone awry, and prospering from this corruption is the ruthless wrestler-turned-mob king Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn, Americans).

Cohen’s merciless character is apparent from the opening scene of the film, where a Chicago thug is chained between two cars and torn in half. Cohen is never challenged because his empire has a stranglehold on the city, and he has complete control over corrupt police officers with drug money. 

Officer John O’Mara (Josh Brolin, Men in Black 3), a veteran of the war who only knows how to fight, becomes disgruntled by Cohen’s rule over his own city and quickly assembles a squad of cops to take down Cohen’s operations under the radar. O’Mara is joined by a handful of other men, one being Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling, The Ides of March).

Wooters, a smooth, classy ladies’ man, falls in love with Grace Faraday (Emma Stone, Movie 43), Cohen’s beautiful red-haired squeeze. This secret love affair could prove dangerous for them both but serves as a more engaging aspect of the film. It’s a shame audiences don’t see more of this interaction.

Essentially, the film focuses the conflict between mob lord and an undercover cop squad. The movie isn’t thought-provoking, as it is overstuffed with action sequences, shootouts and a few cheesy one-liners.

Overall, the plot is quite predictable and the characters have no real backstory or any chance to develop beyond flat, underwritten characters. Gangster Squad is simply that, thugs both shooting and killing or getting shot and killed.

There are a few things the film does right, though. The cinematography is excellently executed. The film looks quite beautiful and utilizes engaging slow motion shots, despite them being excessive at some points.

The most notable slow motion shot is of a Christmas ornament in mid-air shattering into hundreds of tiny pieces from the impact of a bullet. This, along with great costume and set design, does justice to the respective time period.

From the costumes and vintage cars to the several packs of cigarettes, the film does get a nod for an authentic feel of the era. Standing tall in its technical and aesthetic triumphs, Gangster Squad fails to deliver a well-written script, engaging plot and character development.

It may be worth watching because it is, at the very least, entertaining. However, if you’re looking for something more fulfilling and thought-provoking, look elsewhere. Gangster Squad only delivers on two things well: goons and guns.



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