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Movie Reviews

Gangster Squad




Released: 10th January 2013

Directed by: Ruben Fleischer

Stars: Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone and Nick Nolte

Reviewer: Luke Walkley

In post-war Los Angeles, the LAPD are fighting a losing battle against Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) and his attempt to run the city. Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) orders Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) to form a team of police officers to run Cohen out of town.

Gangster Squad suffered a number of setbacks in production, having its trailer pulled and release date pushed back due to the tragic events in Aurora, causing Warner Bros to order a reshoot of a number of scenes and a small rewrite of the script. However, it arrives in time to be considered for this year’s academy awards and after viewing the film, this reviewer certainly feels it has a  shot at a couple of them!

With a number of big name actors, it would be interesting to see who took centre stage and, almost instantly, it is Brolin leading the charge. Narrating the events and following his relentless attitude to serve the city he loves.  Gosling plays the softly- spoken Jerry who falls for Mickey Cohen’s squeeze, Grace Faraday (Emma Stone). The rest of the squad consisting of Giovanni Ribisi, Dennis Cockrum, Anthony Mackie and Michael Pena add the sentiment and even the comic reprieve at times.  However, it is Sean Penn’s performance as Mickey Cohen that stands out from the rest. Cool, calm and somehow completely unpredictable all at the same time, Cohen is one of the most formidable men in mafia history and Penn creates a chilling representation of the man.

The film centres on violence and it is therefore unsurprising that there is plenty of it. While it is extremely graphic in nature it never feels over the top and is in-keeping with the tone of the film and the characters it portrays. A questionable 15 rating in the UK will certainly stir up some of the viewers as it is a tad misleading with the volume of violence and unsavoury language. All this culminates in perhaps the most entertaining shootout in recent years rivalling In terms of the visuals and scale, the infamous lobby scene from ‘Scarface’.

As I mentioned the film has arrived in time for the Oscars and it is perhaps it’s clever cinematography and visual effects for which it will stand out. Numerous scenes, one of which is used within the international trailer, use clever camera angles to create something different from ‘just another mob movie’ as it had been touted as by some critics. The set pieces and props are exquisite and recreate the feel of the so-called ‘City of Angels’ of the 40’s and 50’s.

Director Ruben Fleischer has done a fantastic job with ‘Gangster Squad’ allowing all the talents of the cast to shine through whilst creating a genuinely tense action thriller. The violence never stops and from the first scene you can’t help but be completely hooked.

If Gangster Squad is a sign of things to come in 2013, it’s going to be a very good year indeed.

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