{2jtab: Movie Review}

Gangster Squad - Movie Review


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4 stars

With a rat-a-tat throwback style that echoes the gangster films of yesteryear and a fedora-wearing swagger that suggests dark alleys and women with dangerous curves, director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less) brings audiences back to the crime-ridden streets of the late 1940’s Los Angeles.  Gangster Squad isn’t aiming for intelligence; its heart is the pulpy center of cinema’s classic good-vs-bad guy routine – complete with tommy guns, dopey lines, and Dirty Harry theatrics.  It’s as brutal and as fun as its adverts suggest, winking and nudging its way through some classic B-movie setups.  This has the makings of a guilty pleasure through and through.

Stranglehold.  That’s what one-time boxing legend Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), now a full time mob boss, has over Los Angeles.  His influence and his money is everywhere.  It’s even infiltrated City Hall.  One good copper, World War II veteran turned LAPD Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) stands in his way from complete city-wide dominance.  O’Mara can’t be bought.   Fellow sergeant Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) has a different opinion.  The whole town is drowning, he acknowledges.  Buy a bathing suit.  Yet, he finds himself on the front lines of another war when he begins a relationship with Mickey’s main dame, the lovely Grace (a luscious Emma Stone).

The Chief of Police (Nick Nolte) appoints O’Mara in charge of assembling a no-rules-following secret taskforce to take down Cohen and his influence by any means necessary.  Enter wiretap expert Officer Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi), sharpshooting Officer Kennard (Robert Patrick) and Officer Ramirez (Michael Peña).  What follows is pulp and dagger B-movie vengeance.  The type of action sequences made famous in old movie serials.  You know…it’s the stuff of cinematic legend...the kind of material James Cagney built a career on.

Imagine all that cops and robbers matinee stuff as Fleischer’s sermon to the masses.  No, he isn’t subtle and with a much bigger budget, a healthy meat-and-potatoes attitude, and sharp production values, he presents an authentic - and overly stereotyped - rain-soaked Los Angeles as his holy church.  Fedora-wearing vigilantes are his angels and machine gun bullets zipping by everywhere serve as the chorus.  Bow your heads, mofos, bow your heads.

And so what if the performances are of a single note?  The script, penned by Will Beall, isn’t withholding of its true intent.  The brawled-up and violent opening – in which O’Mara saves an unlucky dame from Mickey’s thugs using fists alone – is all the evidence you need.  But some critics will cry out against its intentions.  Look at its title, folks.  Gangster Squad doesn’t invite a sort of L.A. Confidential introspection.  Nor do those words pretend to tickle the funny bone of The Untouchables.  This is square-jawed entertainment that isn’t afraid to provide a few uses of ultra-slow motion camera tricks when things get really heavy and a swanky Hollywood hotel must be shot all to pieces.

For guys and dolls starving for vintage popcorn entertainment, Gangster Squad patrols the streets for you.

{2jtab: Film Details}

The Gangster Squad Trailer

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language.
113 mins.
: Ruben Fleischer
: Will Beall
Sean Penn; Josh Brolin, Emma Stone; Giovanni Ribisi; Mick Betancourt; Nick Nolte
Genre: Crime | Drama
No names. No badges. No mercy.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You're talking to God, so you might as well swear to me."
Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date:
January 11, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
April 23, 2013.

Synopsis: Los Angeles, 1949. Ruthless, Brooklyn-born mob king Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) 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 he has under his thumb. 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 (Josh Brolin) and Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), who come together to try to tear Cohen's world apart.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Gangster Squad - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

4 stars

Blu-ray Experience
4 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - April 23, 2013
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; iTunes digital copy; DVD copy; Bonus View (PiP)

With admirable period production design, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer foxtrots onto Blu-Ray with swanky gloss.  The dark, high-contrast 2.40:1 transfer is flawless, boasting nice, richly-saturated colors, appropriate sharpness, and no noticeable imperfections. Colors are bold and solid and, surprisingly, there is no crush to the picture.  Contrast and clarity are rich.  There’s a mix of both daytime and nocturnal scenes and both are presented with bravado.  The Blu-ray's 5.1 DTS-HD master audio offers suitable thrills, the abundance of gunfire yielding a lively, directional sound field in which to be immersed.



  • Surprisingly, director Ruben Fleischer sits down for a commentary that might bore some.  He is fairly monotone in this recording and his enthusiasm for the picture never matches his voice.  In detail, he describes the alternate opening he originally shot, discusses the iconic Los Angeles locations he employed, and praises the talent involved.  He doesn’t share any anecdotes.  This is a technical commentary only.

Special Features:

Gangster Squad is now available to own in Warner's standard options of lightweight DVD and that same DVD in a Blu-ray + DVD, each edition also equipped with UltraViolet.  Only the Blu-Ray; however, contains the supplements, though.  They include a picture-in-picture track that features pop-up historical trivia cards, clickable featurettes, and then-and-now location photos and a fluff piece that showcases interviews with Brolin, Gosling, Stone, Fleischer, Nolte, and Anthony Mackie.  An attention-grabbing documentary from 1998 about Mickey Cohen is included for those who are interested (I was).  Sounds like a lot of supplementals, I know, but when you really examine what you have with this release there’s little to say about the information they contain other than they are slick EPK-type promotional pieces.

  • The Set Up (45 min)
  • Rogues Gallery: Mickey Cohen (47 min)
  • Then And Now Locations (8 min)
  • Tough Guys with Style (5 min)

{2jtab: Trailer}