Thursday, 24 January 2013

Gangster Squad

gangster squad
Gangster Squad (2013), dir. Ruben Fleisher
Runtime 113 minutes, BBFC rating 15

Gangster Squad is set in 1940s L.A. and tells the story of a group of police officers who came together in an attempt to take down real life mob king Mickey Cohen. The plot and characters are both based on reality and whilst I don’t know a lot about how the actual events played out its safe to say this version is pretty loose with the facts.

The film boasts an impressive cast of famous names including Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling leading the police squad, Emma Stone who plays the very much underdeveloped ‘damsel in distress’ character Grace and Cohen himself is portrayed by Sean Penn. With a list of names like that and support from the likes of Nick Nolte, Robert Patrick and Giovanni Ribisi you would probably expect to see great performances across the board. Sean Penn’s portrayal in particular was very hard to take seriously and seemed over exaggerated the majority of the time. In contrast Brolin was a good choice for the role of Sergeant O’Hara the leader of the squad who had absolutely no strategy but was also a very likable ‘good guy’ type. Similarly Patrick and Ribisi were well-cast in their respective supporting roles as Officers Kennard and Keeler.

Directed by Ruben Fleisher, best known for 2009’s Zombieland a film with it’s own distinctive styling, you would expect to see something visually striking and Gangster Squad is definitely that. The fact that everything from the cinematography and colouring to the costumes and even the closing credits is boldly styled helps to distract from the poor script which alone would fall completely flat. Gangster Squad does deserve a little credit though as there were certainly a few good lines mixed in amongst the overall lacking script.

The film is packed with plenty of action in the form of violence, with fist fights, plenty of shooting throughout and even the occasional car chase. However there is another element that just keeps cropping up and that is slow-motion sequences. To be honest it’s a bit of a slow-motion overload however I will say that I thought this technique was fairly well-used in a couple of particular scenes, one set in a hotel lobby near the very end and earlier on in a prison breakout.

If you really enjoy sequences shot in slow-motion and are willing not to take the film too seriously then you may just find you love Gangster Squad. On the other hand if you’re looking for a historically accurate portrayal of 40s L.A. you won’t find it here. Unfortunately, although entertaining at times, I felt the script really let down a plot and cast that had the potential to produce something great. If there’s one thing Gangster Squad is its visually striking, but you’ll have to decide for yourself whether that’s enough. 2.5/5

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