"Gangster Squad" (2013)

Gangster Squad (2013)
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Running time: 113 minutes

Now Showing this week is Gangster Squad, a noir action thriller directed by Ruben Fleischer. Aside from having the worst title of the year (though it’s only January so early days!), Gangster Squad tells the tale of a group of small time Los Angeles police officers who are instructed to go completely off the record and use whatever means necessary to take down the notorious crime boss Mickey Cohen, a man whose government ties make him almost untouchable. Throw in one of the handsome Gangster Squad (*shudder*) members falling for Cohen’s girl and wanting to rescue her from him, some tommy-gun drive-by’s, snazzy suits and jazz and you have a classic 1940’s gangster flick thrill ride.

Which is exactly what Gangster Squad (seriously, I taste vomit every time I type that phrase) is: a classic 1940’s gangster flick. I don’t really have all that much to say about it beyond that, it had all the attributes to fit the genre and make for an entertaining two hours of guns, dames and mobsters. To me, the film just didn’t have any depth to it. Don’t get me wrong, Gangster Squad (geez, don’t remember eating that…) ticks all the right boxes for the genre, has some solid performances and the visual aesthetics are gorgeous; it’s just that the film never truly got me to care too much for the people involved as they weren’t really characters beyond their genre specific archetypes. Aside from the villain (who I’ll get to in a moment), I couldn’t tell you any of the characters names because they didn’t stick with me; none of them were really that memorable. The performances were good, everyone was convincing and no one did a bad job (except Ryan Gosling had something funny going on with his accent, wasn’t a fan), but the characters just weren’t well rounded. The one exception to this, as I mentioned, was Mickey Cohen (played by Sean Penn). He was a fantastic villain, not because of any originality or quirkiness to him ala. the Joker, but because he just owned every scene he was in. Even if he was just standing still, not saying a word, Cohen had all the power in the scene and was always a formidable, terrifying character. What can I say, the guy had presence!

The other highlight of the film for me was the action sequences. The cinematography in the shootouts and the fight scenes always felt so visceral, with the use of slow and quick motion, sickening, wet “thud” sounds for punches, and actually going all out with showing what it looks like when someone is repeatedly hit in the face. Trust me, it looks powerful. Another compliment to the filmmakers: the car chase scene was just awesome and everyone else will have to see it for themselves to understand.

Having said all this, Gangster Squad (is there such a thing as “throat diarrhea”?) is still a film I would recommend, if only for the enjoyable ride that it is. Yeah it isn’t that deep, the ending doesn’t really work and Ryan Gosling sounds funny; but basics are all there. The action is intense and spectacular, the villain is awesomely scary, no one can argue with a swinging 40’s soundtrack and Emma Stone looks beautiful. Won’t be winning any awards, but a fun two hours nonetheless.

See you next time!


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