HST…Film Review: Gangster Squad


Zac: Gangster Squad is exactly what it is aiming to be: loud and violent fun, while putting to good use an excellent cast all up for the ride.

The film is a fictionalized and sensationalized telling of some true life stories surrounding a group of vigilante cops who are sent after Mickey Cohen and other mob figures in the late 1940’s.  Led by Sgt. O’Mara, he recruits a rough and tumble squad that wreaks havoc on Cohen’s rackets and tics the mobster off to do whatever it takes to take them down.

The film strays from reality fairly quickly, and it is tough to pin down how much is true in this story.  The film doesn’t seem all that concerned about that though, and is far more interested in being cool then being a factual retelling of events.  More Dick Tracy than L.A. Confidential, the film is certainly a crowd pleaser that has everyone on board with what exactly they seem to be going for, surface level fun.

Lauren:  With the main characters being soldiers returning from the war to don a different uniform during this period of LA, fighting Cohen by going at him sideways, I felt like I was watching a shortened version of Rockstar Games’ L.A. Noire.  I’m sure I shot up that building, destroyed that cache of heroin, and I am almost positive that I drove my car into a fountain that looked exactly like that (you’ll know the one).  It was just so recognizable, maybe too recognizable.

It really is no question where the story is going from the moment in starts, and no it’s not just because it’s based on a true story, Dad.  It’s because Gangster Squad follows a formula that we’ve all seen before: the big shot bad guy ruling with intimidation and thugs, the girl we only care about being “in danger” because she’s played by Emma Stone, a headstrong leader whose dedication to bad guy crushing leads to risky situations that can only go one way once the glory-days montage has run its course.  But what keeps this entertaining is that we actually get to laugh at a lot of the missteps, a surprising and unexpected side to the film.  Just add more Ryan Gosling and less bullet-time and I can forgive the rest.

Zac: For the record, the film has no bullet-time. I agree on more Gosling though, and agree wholeheartedly that I was caught off guard by the tone of the film.  It is a romp, and a good one at that, and I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised after Ruben Fleischer’s previous films.  The film doesn’t want to be a history lesson, and it is all the better for it as it allows for these heightened sequences to really make the film watchable in all of its over the top nature. The film can also be brutal at times and is certainly not for the squeamish.

You did hit the nail on the head though with Emma Stone’s character as she is one of many issues you can pick at this movie.  It is all surface level deep with little introspection and far from convincing motivations.  Gosling’s character, Jerry, in particular does a complete 180 in feelings towards the gangster squad after an ancillary character is slain in front of him.  The film is full of five cent wisdom and few deep thoughts, but again, that wasn’t the films aim and never tries to sell itself as such.

Lauren: Gangster Squad might not be the epic period piece I was expecting thanks to its surface level tendencies, and I sure know I can point out a ton of things I would change or build on if given the chance, but I’d hardly say the film brought a six shooter to a tommy gun fight of the gangster genre (though the characters did this often enough) simply because it was just so much fun to watch, no matter what I expected it to be.  But I won’t be surprised if there are plenty of people who won’t be as generous as I am with this.

Zac: I agree with Lauren, the film is pure entertainment, but this certainly is no L.A. Confidential.
Set expectations too fun! (Shakes head and walks out of room)

Zac & Lauren’s Final Grade: B

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