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“Gangster Squad” for what it’s worth


It’s the same old story. Outstanding acting carrying an interesting-enough plot through coulda shoulda woulda execution.

“Gangster Squad” is an action/crime drama set in Los Angeles in 1949, where crime and corruption is running rampant, even within the justice system. Sergeant John O’Mara (portrayed by Josh Brolin), a World War II vet who still hasn’t transitioned to civilian life, takes it upon himself to bring down the main source of the crime: gangster Mickey Cohen (played by Sean Penn). O’Mara assembles a team of cops, among which is Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), who put aside their badges to take down Cohen’s massive operation.

The film is “inspired by true events,” which, with all of the explosions and a car chase, makes you wonder how much true and how much is fabricated to sell at the box office. The movie has all the cliché mob movie characteristics, only set on a post-war American background. The setting itself in the film is executed somewhat awkwardly. Many times the ‘40s spirit feels more like a blatantly-contrived modern-day Hollywood version of the time, instead of pulling the audience in with a vibe of historical accuracy.

Acting is the biggest attribute of the film. Brolin puts on a solid performance as a war-hardened cop whose pursuit of justice leads him to taking extreme risks, and often borderline irrational behavior. In general, Penn’s acting is outstanding, and his portrayal of the cocky mob boss is no different. It’s yet another serious role that showcases his brilliance and his mastery of his work (can he do another goofy “Fast Times”-esque role to shake things up a bit?).

Hollywood hottie Gosling continues his career of crushing the talentless pretty boy stereotype, like Brad Pitt before him, with another good performance. His sassy character has a high-pitched, airy voice that is initially distracting and doesn’t seem to fit him, but grows on you as the movie progresses.

Emma Stone plays Cohen’s girlfriend and Wooters’ love interest, and her on-screen chemistry with Gosling (as seen in “Crazy Stupid Love”) seems to foreshadow a Johnny Depp/Helena Bonham Carter relationship for the next generation of movie audiences.

Despite the high-end cast list, the movie didn’t seem to have unreasonably high expectations for itself. Part of what makes in enjoyable is that is seems to be almost making fun of itself with some of the witty dialogue and the mannerisms of the character, breaking the cliché gangster movie mold. This keeps the film from being taken too seriously, but that’s not to say it’s a comedy. The movie, especially towards the end, gains some emotional depth as the families of the squad are in danger of the gang’s retaliation, and the amount of guns and violence at times compares to a Tarantino film.

The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the audience shouldn’t either. With the star-studded cast and the comic relief, the film is captivating and enjoyable, just not always smooth or historically consistent, and that’s okay.

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Randi Peterson, Author

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