Review: Gangster Squad (2013)
Gangster squad is a new gangster movie directed by Ruben Fleisher best known for Zombieland (2009). The movie is exactly as its title states; it’s about a gangster squad. The film is comprised of Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin), Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), detectives Coleman Harris (Anthong Mackie) and Conway keeler (Giovani Rabisi). These people are all called together to go undercover as the gangster squad by the chief of police Bill Parker (Nick Nolte) to go undercover and get the gangsters. Primarily they go after Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) while Grace Faraday (Emma Stone) joins the film as the love interest for Wooters (Ryan Gosling).
After seeing the film I consider it one you would watch simply for the fun of it, it’s nothing Oscar worthy or particularly innovative in directing. But if you’re interested in the true story element of Mickey Cohen and gangster history then it is one to watch. Or if you want some generic action, shooting up gangsters in Los Angeles during 1949 then this is the film for you. If not you’re probably better off renting L.A confidential (1997).
The soundtrack for the film is probably one of the best elements of the movie and can’t really be felt from the trailer viewings but it does well to fit into the 1949 theme for the movie. There is also some live singing and diegetic music in this movie that does well to draw you in to the film experience especially in the slower Emma Stone type scenes. While the action scenes feature primarily fast tension filled non diegetic theme music as is common in action movies. But overall music and sound is a plus.
The memorable performances in the film come probably from Emma Stone as the movie seems to focus and slow down in tone in her scenes as they have a lot of focus on simply talking. While Josh Brolin does well with his character he seems very rigid and dark for a policeman almost like he could have even played a part as a gangster or maybe that’s just his way. While Sean Penn really stood out with his 1949 accent and his sometimes overacting in scenes which was entertaining to watch but it was like he was on a different level to the rest at times. I don’t know if above or below it though. Ryan Gosling seemed to be simply placed into his role, I didn’t feel much was done with him he was pretty much just there. All I can say about the acting is that the actors particularly Sean Penn and Emma Stone looked like they were just having to much fun with their characters. Other people just looked like they showed up to the movie.
The movie has a sort of noire feel to the whole thing being a 1949 era setting it is obvious that it would have that. However for a lot of the movie it seemed to feel like it wanted to be a western with a gangster setting. I’m not sure what Fleisher was going for really. But it was like as if the Sheriff had hired a few guys with white hats (the gangster squad) to go after a few with black hats (the gangsters) to take them out. The film also contains many shoot outs with almost everyone missing their shots except the good guys. There was one particular scene where our heroes were placed in prison and two friends were outside trying to get them out by tying the prison bar windows to a car and trying to pull them loose. It just had a very western feel and look to these scenes even the jail scene guards were reminiscent a western, or the car chase scene, it could have easily been horses they were riding. While characters also trained in the shooting range with a cowboy like mentor (who only uses pistols) shooting cans on the range for their training.
Being a gangster western was interesting though and makes the movie stand out from other gangster type of films. However I do believe it does have a particular failing with the computer graphic effects in this film. There are two scenes in particular one where the camera is panning across the street landscape and you can clearly see frame rate lag and a second when we are shown the city and its buildings, I thought they looked particularly fake. The CGI was something that took away from the experience and made you feel like you were simply watching a movie and not really there.
Another thing I would like to mention is that with the promotional material like in the video below. The movie is built up to be something like the untouchables or the the Godfather. I do not believe it is at all similar to the Godfather it may not be similar to the untouchables either. So far I don’t believe it was a next level of gangster films. Particularly as far as directing is concerned.
To judge the movie overall I would say that I did enjoy it. I thought it was a good fun viewing and it did have some really good moments to watch and see. If you’re a fan of Emma Stone or Sean Penn, then you’ll have some fun with this one! They are by far the outstanding forces that make the movie worth seeing. While it is nothing Oscar worthy it’s worth a trip if you like this genre but I feel it doesn’t really compare to L.A confidential unless you of course go for the action scenes. Then you’ll love it!