Review: Gangster Squad (2013)

Gangster Squad
Directed by: Ruben Fleisher
Starring: Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
Genre: Action / Crime
Released: January 10th 2013
by Warner Bros. Pictures
Running time: 113 mins (1 hr, 53 mins)
Cert: 15 (BBFC) R (MPAA)
Rating: ★★★★

IMDb | View Trailer
Los Angeles, 1940: Ruthless, Brooklyn-born mob king Mickey Cohen runs the show in this town, reaping the ill-gotten gains from the drugs, the guns, the prostitutes and - if he has his way - every wire bet placed west of Chicago. And he does it all with the protection of not only his own paid goons, but also the police and the politicians who are under his control. It's enough to intimidate even the bravest, street-hardened cop... except, perhaps, for the small, secret crew of LAPD outsiders led by Sgt. John O'Mara and Jerry Wooters, who come together to try to tear Cohen's world apart.
First film review of 2013! And it's a gangster film too! I wanted to see this film from the second I saw the title. Not the trailer, the title. That just shows how much I love gangster films. For once I didn't have to go alone since my parents wanted to see it too and I made a deal with my dad that if I finished and handed in all of my college coursework, he would take me to see it (I originally wanted to go bowling, until we had all seen the trailer). And I did (obviously)!

There isn't really much to the plot, it's very straightforward: Mickey Cohen is a big bad gangster in LA, the police want him behind bars and commissions a special squad to bring him in and a lot of violence and shooting happens. That's pretty much it without revealing the ending. This isn't really the kind of film that requires a deep and complex plot and I found it very easy to follow what was happening since nothing is confusing.

Although all of the performances of Gangster Squad are phenomenal, it didn't feel like the characters were developed enough. I think most of the characters were real people (Mickey Cohen was a real person, but I'm not sure about the other characters) and it is a bit hard to do character development with real people because you can't really do more development than what you know about them, but still. Emma Stone's character, Grace, needed to be developed a lot more because she seems to only play the 'damsel-in-distress' type of female character and I would have liked to have seen more of her relationship with Ryan Gosling's (*swoon*) character, Jerry.

I'm not sure if the film was shot on location or on a set, but I love how 1940s Los Angeles looks. And I love even more that they got the Hollywood sign right (it reads 'HOLLYWOODLAND' like it did back then)! The styling of the settings really suits the moods of the scenes that they are used in and just look...... well, awesome!

Violence, ho! Yeah, this film is pretty violent. One of the most grisly scenes of the film happens about two minutes in. Thankfully, nothing is seen but you do hear everything and that curls my toes more than seeing something. There are two scenes where you can only hear the effects of what is happening. The rest of the violent scenes are quite high octane and got my heart racing, especially the final gunfight scene. I think that the visuals and camerawork of the film are the best part of Gangster Squad, everything is shot in a very stylish manner and there's even slow-motion scenes in a couple of places (I'm a total sucker for slow-motion). There were a few moments where I wished they would put the camera back on a dolly because handheld footage really screws with my eyes.

Although this film is very enjoyable to watch in terms of gun fight scenes, camera work and Ryan Gosling, it somewhat lacks in character development. But then again, Gangster Squad isn't the kind of film you'd watch to find out about the relationships between characters and how their lives are affected by things, you'd probably watch it to see people shoot each other with Tommy guns, which is why I wanted to watch it. But, that one little thing aside, this was a really enjoyable film and a nice homage to gangster films

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