Sunday, April 28, 2013


When it comes to movies like GANGSTER SQUAD it's really unfair for me to give them an honest review. I live for this stuff. Good guys vs. bad guys, tough as nails G-men taking out stone cold ruthless crime bosses. All taking place in a stylized, pulpy 1940's post-WWII Los Angeles.

Inspired by true events (not to be confused with based on a true story) GANGSTER SQUAD is the story of how a secret crew led by two police officers took down mob boss Micky Cohen and his ruthless control of Los Angeles. The leader of this squad Sgt. John O'Mara (played wonderfully by Josh Brolin) is the 'bull in the china shop' that's needed to bring down a guy like Micky Cohen.

He can't do it alone so in THE UNTOUCHABLES fashion he assembles a rag-tag under the radar, best of the best group of bad asses. The cool and smooth Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), heavy hitters like knife wielding Officer Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie), and sharp shooter Officer Max Kennard (Robert Patrick). An organization like Micky's cannot be brought down by brawn alone so Officer Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi) brings some brains and balance that is the final piece of the Gangster Squad.

The cast of GANGSTER SQUAD is amazing. Brolin and crew come off as genuine bad asses. The real star of the picture however is Sean Penn's Mickey Cohen. The performance is over the top and perfect for Ruben Fleischer's gangster genre film. Truth be told that the real life Mickey Cohen was indeed ruthless but kinda normal and dull. His real demise was tax evasion. I love that the filmmakers made the character more interesting and how Sean channeled a bit of James Cagney for the role. It's awesome!

When you watch GANGSTER SQUAD you're going to quickly notice that you've seen this before. But that's okay, remember this is a genre film not an A&E Biography. I didn't cry out 'fake' or 'phony' when I noticed call backs to classics such as THE UNTOUCHABLES and TOMBSTONE. It made the experience a much more enjoyable one not a cynical one. I mention TOMBSTONE because this movie felt much like a western just as much as it was a gangster film.

The film also reminded me of SIN CITY with it's sprinkle of dark humor and highly stylized violence. This fit the tone of GANGSTER SQUAD perfectly and for those saying this movie was just one step away from becoming spoof are smoking crack.

I believe the great amount of cynicism GANGSTER SQUAD is receiving stems from the tragic events that occurred at the midnight showing of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES last year in Aurora, Colorado. This resulted in the postponement of the movies release and scene removal of a shoot out taking place in a theater auditorium. Which was an appropriate move by the studio. I don't want to get political so I'll just leave it at that.

The bottom line is that GANGSTER SQUAD isn't going to reinvent the wheel of gangster movies. What it does do is give you an entertaining movie night.

Highly recommended for genre movie buffs, gangster film geeks, and Lee Marvin fans.

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