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It's the late 1940s, post World War II. With foreign conflict halted and the Cold War in full swing, homeland gang warfare was in full flow. Mickey Cohen's pull over Los Angeles was a big issue, his reach stretching to include corrupt police officials. Hardball cop 'Sarge' doesn't let it faze him though, swinging fists and causing Cohen problems, getting himself a rep for being a good guy ultimately signing his own death warrant.
When Sarge is tasked with forming a secret squad to combat Cohen's gangster mob, he picks and chooses only those he knows are above Cohen, with a view to putting the man down, permanently. There's only one rule: they are to be completely secret, nothing official, no pay and no glory. Billed as the new Untouchables, Ruben Fleischer's atmospheric and action packed film shows Sarge's gangster squad pit themselves against the almost inpenetrable reach exacted by Cohen.
The biggest feature for me was the realistic reenactment of the era - giving a glossy feel to the film, with speakeasies and relevant fashion, the cars and music add to the atmosphere which is only broken up by the gruff violence shown by Josh Brolin's portrayal of Sarge John O'Mara. A bullish performance with plenty of gumption and power reminiscent of Dick Tracy, he is well backed up by an impressive cast that includes an in form Sean Penn as Cohen. Violence comes from both sides, and I suppose this is the benefit of a group of cops having to operate outside the law. There are some clever plot developments along the way, and the stylish way in which the families and friends of the heroes are brought into the fray adds to the already dark and tense atmosphere.
Actors such as Ryan Gosling and Giovanni Ribisi form a slightly younger contingent for the group, while the inclusion of seasoned actors Nick Nolte and Robert Patrick adds some security to the film. The performances are impressive all round, and perhaps the two lead females show just how dangerous everything is, with Emma Stone and Mireille Enos as Sarge and Cohen's ladies both able to provide enough strength in fear to drive home the dangers in what these heroes were doing. You can't help feel for them, but at no point does Fleischer succumb to the pressing temptation to let this descend into glossy poster post prohibition post WWII glory hunting. This is a stylish and maturely presented film that kept me riveted throughout. While there is action there is an equal amount of development and dialogue, tension being brought by words and emotion as much as acting and action.
Impressive and stylish, Fleischer and his impressive cast deliver what should have been a tough job. Following possibly the greatest film like this of all time, The Untouchables, was going to be no easy job. Instead, this presents itself as something different. There are no attempts to copy in style or presentation, just a mature presentation of a solid tale, no matter how much is or isn't benched in truth. This, to be honest, doesn't matter. It's a very good film, superbly directed and acted and full of elements that could keep you riveted more than once when watching. Highly recommended.
About the film
Gangster Squad is a 2013 crime film. It was released at the cinema on 10th January and it has a run time of 113 minutes. The film is rated 15 due to strong violence and bad language.
Set in 1949, gangster Micky Cohen has become the most powerful figure in the crime world of California. Not content with his already booming empire, Cohen plans to move further out and take over Chicago and New York as well. Everyone either fears Cohen or works for him so no one has the nerve to try to stop him. Until now. Sergeant John O'Mara and a group of others put together by the chief of the LAPD begin working together to take down the gangster boss and finish him once and for all. They call themselves the 'Gangster Squad'.
Josh Brolin as Sergeant John O'Mara
Ryan Gosling as Sergeant Jerry Wooters
Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen
Emma Stone as Grace Faraday.
Nick Nolte as Chief Bill Parker
Mireille Enos as Connie O'Mara
Anthony Mackie as Detective Coleman Harris
Giovanni Ribisi as Detective Conwell Keeler
Michael Peña as Detective Navidad Ramirez
Robert Patrick as Detective Max Kennard
Sullivan Stapleton as Jack Whalen
Holt McCallany as Karl Lennox
What I thought
I love a good action movie as well as loving hot guys who act in them. What better than to add in gun, violence, gangsters and Ryan Gosling. Obviously, I wanted to see this film as soon as I had heard about it.
Gangster Squad has a fantastic cast and I'm not just talking about Ryan Gosling. Josh Brolin leads as Sergeant John O'Mara, a cop who doesn't care about the consequences of going in and doing what he knows his right. He doesn't really follow the rules and he rarely listens to what he is supposed to do. O'Mara has issues though, having come out of the war and knows no other way to act. As a character, he's quite hard and although sometimes it came across as standoffish, it was more that he knew what he wanted. Still though, there are times when we get to see inside his family life and are able to see a softer side to him which was nice.
Sean Penn was fantastic as the gangster boss Micky Cohen. Cohen is a real piece of work and honestly, I would be terrified of him too. Penn puts into his character everything that you can imagine a gangster being. He has a cocky accent, a gruff and messed up looking face as well as dressing the part as well. As Cohen, Penn was very believable and although I know nothing about gangsters, I thought he was very realistic at the same time. However, I do feel as though we could have gotten more from the character. More from his past maybe. More about why he ended up the way he is. I don't know, just something more.
As much as I love Emma Stone, she was undeniably underused in this film. Stone plays love interest Grace Faraday, the girlfriend of Cohen. However, she is also the love interest for Ryan Gosling's character, Sergeant Jerry Wooters as well. Stone looks stunning in some fabulous dresses and dark lipsticks, matching the luxurious hairstyles and she looks every bit the part of the gangster's girlfriend. However, her character is little more than a damsel in distress. There is no depth with her, no background history, no nothing really. She looks great, has great chemistry with Gosling but not much else. Don't get me wrong, Stone is very good in her role but I think that she could have been much more than that.
As a crime film, Gangster Squad has plenty of guns and plenty of violence. I'm not the kind of girl to shy away from things like this and instead, I really love films with lots of violence. The beginning of the film sets the scene for the kinds of violence we are about to see through the whole film. If you think gangsters and ways of killing people, that's exactly what you get here. Some scenes, especially the first, are really gruesome and there is loads of blood. Not only is there a lot of bloody violence but there are plenty of car chases and gun/ fight scenes to keep you entertained. I found the whole film extremely exciting and I couldn't get enough of it.
Gangster Squad was a lot more stylish than I had imagined it to be for some reason. The late 40s costumes along with the bars and nightlife mixed in with the gangster scene all fit really well together. I loved the mix of luxury with the downright dirty and seedy. This film gives plenty of different perspectives on the era and it is shot beautifully. There were some scenes reminding me of the 'crash', 'bang', 'wallop' bits of cartoons/ comics which also helped to add to the atmospheric feeling of the film.
All in all, while I did really love Gangster Squad, there were things that could have made it even better. Character development was severely lacking in some places and the dialogue a bit wooden in some parts. Really, the action and fights are what make this film so good, along with the way that it looks on the screen. Still, highly recommended.
I read about this movie while it was still being filmed and felt like I'd been waiting ages for it to come out. The main reason I wanted to see it was the cast, I'm a fan of Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Sean Penn and Nick Nolte so knew the film couldn't go far wrong. The film is directed by Ruben Fleischer and was released in UK cinemas last Friday 11th January. It was rumoured that the release date was delayed after a scene involving a cinema shooting was cut out of sympathy for victims of the "Dark Knight" cinema shooting.
As the release date got closer a couple of trailers were released. The trailers made sure to make a point of the high profile cast in the film and the fact that this would be a slightly comical and not overly serious gangster film involving a lot of shoot outs. This appealed to me, I'm not a fan of gangster films that are too serious as they can be quite disturbing so it was a relief to know that this one wouldn't be too deep and real to life.
The film is set in Los Angeles post WW2 in 1948. We are introduced to gangster Mick Cohen (Sean Penn) who is currently ruling the criminal world in LA and also has control over the court and police systems in LA after they could no longer contain him. This isnt enough though and he has a vision to expand his enterprise out to Chicago and New York. He works on a system in which he eliminates rival gangs by hunting them down and killing them brutally, thus sending a message out to other potential gangs not to bother.
Chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte) hasn't given up yet and is still determined to see an end to Cohens power so he recruits police officer John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) to create an undercover police unit to bring Cohen to justice. He is left with the task of deciding who should be in his 'gang' and opts for fellow Sergeant Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), detectives Harris (Anthony Mackie) & Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi) as well as Ramirez (Michael Pena) and Kennard (Robert Patrick). They dub themselves the "Gangster Squad".
Wooters comes across Grace Faraday in a local club and romances her, despite the fact that she is Cohens girlfriend. O.Mara warns him about this and tries to put him off but he insists on continuing to see her. The unit then go about intercept several of Cohen's plans and attempting to shut down his illegal gambling business. But will they succeed?
I really enjoyed this film and thought it was entertaining and lived up to expectations set by the trailer. The storyline was basic and easy to understand so it wasn't exactly challenging but I didn't think it really needed to be as it wasn't that kind of film. What made it entertaining was the fast pace and slightly comical tone it took at times. Although the basis of the film is a serious subject there is enough light heartedness to make it enjoyable. I also enjoy a good battle scene, particularly shoot outs and this contained plenty of those, some of which were quite prolonged to which was very intense at times.
The only trouble with the light hearted tone of the film was it prevented me from getting into it as much as I normally would. I did feel like I was rooting for the Gangster Squad but didn't feel like I disliked Cohen enough as a character therefore wasn't that bothered about the ending. I enjoyed the process of the film and watching the unit fight against him, yet didn't really care for the outcome. There were plenty of moments where I was on the edge of my seat and loads of jumpy moments, so I was into the film but just not on a deeper level like I might normally be.
I also found it great to see a film set in the past, there are plenty of films about gangs in the modern day but I haven't seen any new ones that are set in the forties so this made it different and it was entertaining in itself to be taken back to a time so different to now where peoples attitudes and values were so different. The film did a great job at portraying this era and it came across as very realistic. It also gave way for a few comical moments based on the fact that it was set so long ago and things have changed so much since then.
The film allowed just the right amount of romance and emotion in form of Wooters secret relationship with Grace and O'Maras relationship with his pregnant wife. This levelled the film out a bit and created time for a break from the violence. The ending of the film was just right and gave a decent conclusion to everything (although as I mentioned earlier I wasn't that bothered what happened anyway).
The basic opinion I would give anyone asking about this film is that its fast paced, fun and entertaining but won't have you gripped as such and doesn't provide anything too deep and meangingful. But as long as you enjoy a good shoot out you'll enjoy it nevertheless.
This was the main reason I wanted to see the film and the main reason I would watch it again. The acting was superb and the cast was one of the best combinations I've seen in ages. Josh Brolin is the main character as O'Mara and he pulls off the good guy cop role perfectly. He looks like the right guy to play the part and acts right too. I hadn't seen him in any films before but had heard of him and he did a great job. Sean Penn was outstanding as Cohen, he played the bad guy perfectly and really managed to create a very evil and disturbed character, I think it can be easy for actors to portray evil, but to portray someone who is evil AND unhinged is tricky but he nailed it. I was already a fan of Sean Penn but hold him even higher regard after seeing this film. He really made it worth watching.
Ryan Gosling was another actor I was looking forward to seeing but I felt his character was a bit wishy washy and didn't really leave a lasting impression or bring that much to the film. I'm not sure if this was his fault or that was just the role he was given. His accent and mannerisms suited the film and era perfectly but he just wasn't given that much chance to stand out. Emma Stone was the only female main character in the film and one of the only females shown in the film so she stood out for that reason, but I also think her acting was really strong. It sounds sexist (and I'm female myself) but I'm not a fan of many female actresses, they just rarely stand out, however Emma Stone is the exception and I would say she's my favourite actress particularly after watching her in this film.
Other actors I rated within the film were Nick Nolte who gave his usual strong performance and really suited and complimented the film. Also Anthony Mackie who plays one of the Gangster Squad detectives gave a strong performance. I remembered him from Adjustment Bureau and it was great to see him in another film and hopefully more in future.
It wasn't just the fact that the film chose so many well known actors to star within, but the fact that they were actually very well chosen and all suited their roles so well. Usually I find that someone has been mis-cast in a film, even if they are a strong actor the characters don't always suit. However everyone suited their roles in this film, it was almost as though the characters were created with the cast already in mind and it made the film much more enjoyable and gave me good reason to see it again.
I really enjoyed this film and would definitely recommend it and see it again. However I don't think it would be for everyone, I'd only see it if you appreciate gun fight scenes, fancy something different, don't feel the need for anything too serious or deep and like the main actors cast for the film. But for me it was highly entertaining and I'm looking forward to seeing it again when its out on DVD.