February 6, 2023
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Review: ‘Gangster Squad’ scores with classic mob flick

Director Ruben Fleisher delivers action-packed drama and thrilling adventure as “Gangster Squad” soars and sells at the box office. The opening scene immediately sets the tone of power with boxing crime lord Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) waving his gun atop the Hollywood hills. The film revolves around Mickey trying to maintain full control over Los Angeles and the vigilante-styled squad trying to gun his power down.

Josh Brolin plays John O’Mara, a detective determined to take down Mickey. With the help of his pregnant wife, Connie (Mireille Enos), he conjures up a squad of six men to shoot out Mickey’s operations. One of the members is the rebellious sergeant Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) who resists taking part in the squad at first. Eventually, he is drawn into Mickey’s violence after an innocent street shoe shiner kid he cares for is killed by Mickey’s men.

Mickey is the quintessential crime figure. With cold, glass-like eyes and ferocity behind his voice, the little man with a fedora and suave suit is brilliantly captured by Penn. He has declared LA as his throne and the people resist any idea of a rebellion because it is virtually impossible. Mickey plainly wears his emotions, and the audience is fully aware when he is ready to kill.

Like any gangster movie, under all the violence “Gangster Squad” includes a true love story between Gosling and Emma Stone’s character Grace Faraday. The stars have played lovers before in “Crazy Stupid Love,” but not like this. Jerry puts himself in danger by vying for Grace’s attention, and she puts herself in the center of the crossfire. Besides Penn’s portrayal of Mickey, their compatibility may be the most genuine part to the film.

The costume designs throughout the film help accurately recreate the opulence of the 1940s. With a little exaggeration, each character’s clothes match their persona. The most compelling of all costumes is that of O’Mara’s squad with trench coats, fedoras and bandannas masking their identity. When they crash Mickey’s club and take over his territory, suits and bow ties are deemed the appropriate apparel. This scene also demonstrates the power of quick cuts throughout the film. The fast, frequent cuts help exaggerate the battle between Mickey and O’Mara’s squad. Fleisher also uses this exciting effect in a scene in LA’s Chinatown after Mickey figures out the identities of the squad members and sets up the detectives in a brutal gun war.

With cigarette smoking, speakeasies, shootouts and jazz, the film masters the glamorous life in 1949. With sincere chemistry between the characters and raw, riveting action, this film stands out from other mob movies and delivers the drama through characters with true motive to save the day.

3 and a half stars

“Gangster Squad” delivers an action-packed crime film with an all-star cast and attractive visual effects.