Gangster Squad

Those expecting a violent shoot out will be pleased to see that Gangster Squad does provide the thrills and shock that accompany most mob movies, but unfortunately will find little after that. The movie lacks any sort of meat to give the audience the cinematic experience that the strong cast is capable of providing. Ryan Gosling stands above the cast in this movie works well along side Emma Stone. Writing and bad characterization hinders the talent and keeps Gangster Squad from ever really being a hard hitting success.

Movies and TV Shows set between 1920’s and 1940’s are easily the most exciting for me. I’ve mentioned before that there’s something about the era that lends itself well to the big screen. The music, the clothing, and the general aesthetics of the city life are always pleasing in a cinematic setting. Gangster Squad brings us back to the 40’s in this latest crime thriller movie. I’ve had high expectations for this movie for quite a while, and having released just this Friday, I finally got the chance to check out Gangster Squad.

Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad tells the story of a crime-ridden Los Angeles, suffering greatly at the hands of Mickey Cohen. Cohen has been gaining control of the city by flooding its streets with cocaine and paying off anyone that stands in his way. It’s up to ex-Military hero, John O’Mara, to round up a group of vigilantes to bring justice to Los Angeles, even if it means breaking the law.

The movie brings the violent firefights, as well as the tortuous punishments to insubordinates, which does enough to satiate the thrill of mob movies. There are plenty of skirmishes throughout the movie, and surprisingly they’re not as gruesome as one would expect, especially given the negative reviews it’s been receiving for ‘needlessly violent.’ I only recall two scenes where I could agree a little bit but I don’t feel like anything was that over done however given recent events in the nation I can see how the violence might be unsettling.  That being said, the movie lacks any significant meat to balance out the shoot em up style firefights.

My biggest problem with the movie is the fact that a lot of the choices the main characters make are based more on hot headed thinking than anything strategically planned. In fact, aside from, Sergeant Jerry (Ryan Gosling), a lot of the actions involving the other members of the gangster squad, can be seen as comical. The movie goes back to comedic well way too many times to make the gangster squad as intimidating as you would believe an elite force of cops would be, especially when their leader, Sergeant O’Mara, is an ex-military vet who lives his life strictly by the law and badge. It doesn’t help either that O’Mara spends his time making brash decisions and raiding Cohen’s various establishments seemingly on a whim, and then subsequently relying on false bravado and luck to pull his team out of tight jams.

Warning Major Spoilers Regarding the End

The thing that was the most off putting for O’Mara’s character is the fact that we’ve seen this guy give up everything he has to put Cohen behind bars. He’s repeatedly put his, as well has his pregnant wife’s life, in danger just by taking these risky jobs. We’ve seen him show reckless disregard for his teammates by rushing headstrong into sticky situations, and of course we’ve seen him willingly operate over the law just to get the job done. However, despite all of this, when everything is said and done with Mickey Cohen standing right before him, he tosses his gun to the side and risks everything he and others have worked for by engaging in a fist fight instead of apprehending Cohen immediately. It just seemed so out of place given his motivations for the entire movie.

End Spoilers

It doesn’t help that the characters aren’t exactly fleshed out either. Walking out of the movie I barely felt like I knew any of their names aside from Cohen’s. Everyone is pretty much a stock character operating under cliché or shallow motives. The movie tries to tug at our heartstrings by placing them in dire situations but I never felt like I got to know any of them well enough to be adequately in fear for them. There’s no real sense of teamwork or any kind of cohesion among the group either. The movie ends up feeling more of Sergeant O’Mara (Brolin) and Sergeant Jerry (Gosling) show instead of the whole team. It’s a shame that the characters are written so poorly given the fact that the actors that play them bring so much talent to such flat pieces.

Josh Brolin does well in this movie, despite my questions with his character’s motivations, but if I had to pick Ryan Gosling steals the show. Gosling fits the era really well and provided a lot of great banter, in particular with Emma Stone. Gosling is also one of the few in the group who had real dire motivations to take down Cohen and wasn’t operating under a macho guise. Sean Penn does a fantastic job as Mickey Cohen, even if some of his dialogue is questionable. The most outlandish line being, “Here comes Santy Clause,” as he tears down the lobby of a hotel with a machine gun.  Although some of the lines are hard not to laugh at he still comes out of the movie being intimidating and commanding on screen.

Those expecting a violent shoot out will be pleased to see that Gangster Squad does provide the thrills and shock that accompany most mob movies, but unfortunately will find little after that. The movie lacks any sort of meat to give the audience the cinematic experience that the strong cast is capable of providing. Ryan Gosling stands above the cast in this movie works well along side Emma Stone. Writing and bad characterization hinders the talent and keeps Gangster Squad from ever really being a hard hitting success.

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Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
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2 responses to “Gangster Squad

  1. Pingback: Movie Monday Update Week of January 14th | Thinking Cinematic

  2. Pingback: Movie Monday Update Week of April 22st | Thinking Cinematic

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