Films | Gangster Squad – Movie Review

Gangster Squad – Movie Review

Posted by FATEMA H.KAGALWALA on January 11, 2013 | No Comments

FILM – Gangster Squad
PRODUCER – Dan Lin, Kevin McCormick, Michael Tadross
DIRECTOR – Ruben Fleischer
WRITER – Will Beall (Screenplay), (Based on “Tales from the Gangster Squad” by Paul Lieberman)
CAST – Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Sean Penn, Anthony Mackie
MUSIC – Steve Jablonsky
Los Angeles of the 50’s is swamped with criminal activity headed by crime lord Mike Cohen. Its just-out-of-war policemen are having a hard time dealing with the reality they cannot crush nor live under. Until The Chief (Nick Nolte) decides to do away with the menace at a cost he cannot measure yet. He doesn’t even know it is possible. All he knows is John (Josh Brolin) is perfect for the job. He is the classic war hero, sworn to the call of duty and who needs a cause to fight for. John, along with his pregnant, supportive wife selects a rag tag team of five policemen to stand by him to take on Mike Cohen (Sean Penn) by the horns.

Based on “Tales from the Gangster Squad” by Paul Lieberman, the film is an action-packed drama set in the L.A of the 50’s. It’s a grim and dark city we meet with its characters living equally grim lives. The horrors of war haven’t left them yet and the rush of victory has petered into a tired sense of aimlessness. They crave harmony but cannot avoid the swamp at their doorstep. This sense of gravity informs the entire film raising the bar slightly for an otherwise conventional, straight out crime-action film.

It is a well-meaning film that unfortunately is let down by plaid writing and unconvincing characterisation. What hints at dramatic and strategic face-offs peters down into randomly put together events, enveloping at will and tied up with a bare thread of a story. For the meat of the one-line plot lies in the ‘how’ and this ‘how’ is what is left unattended and uncared for.

However, the intensity of Josh Brolin, the brilliance of Sean Penn and fluidity of Ryan Gosling raise the film out of its mediocrity. The three men bring a seriousness and conviction into the genre and narrative beyond the scope of its own merit. Emma Stone as the vulnerable woman caught in the grips of her own wrong choices is on par as well, sharing a lovely chemistry with Gosling and convincing us of their fragile, almost unattainable love. Mireille Enos as Mrs John is strong and subtle, supporting the film well.
There is a lot old fashioned action, fisticuffs and shoot-outs that we had almost forgotten in the new craze for CG-driven bullet wars. There are frenetic car chases and volatile machine gun battles, shot and edited with care, keeping the tension and emotion high. The climactic fight gives into a little bit of glamourising but it suits the narrative and senses, especially as it is mixed well with good ole’ heroic hand fights. There is an eye for beauty that lends the period atmosphere charm, in costumes, cinematography and art direction.

Enjoyable for action and the actors’ fans, Gangster Squad isn’t much to write home about but as long as it lasts it doesn’t give much reason to crib either and that isn’t bad too, is it?

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