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Film Review: Gangster Squad (2013)

Film Review: Gangster Squad (2013)

Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writers: Will Beall and Paul Lieberman
Running Time: 113 minutes.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and Emma Stone.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had an unconditional love of ‘mobster’ gangsters; the lovable and dishonourable anti-heroes of the early 20th century America , clad in pinstripe suits and fedoras. I know that I’m not the only one who has never outgrown the childish desire to be a gangster, so when Warner Bros. released Gangster Squad on January 11th, I wasted no time in helping director Ruben Fleischer (Director of Zombieland) witness his film reach seventeen million dollars in its opening weekend.

Leading up to the release of the film, the phrase I found myself encountering the most was: “Based on a true story”, which is the sort of claim that intrigues me and concerns me simultaneously. In my experience, I’ve discovered that these words always provoke an instant judgement on a film, regardless of whether it’s whether or not it’s any good, so I was curious to see how writers Paul Lieberman and Will Beall would mix historical events with the Hollywood makeover.

The storyline is ultimately the stapled diet of an action film; good guys, bad guys and guns. Gangster Squad offers its interpretation of the real life conflict between the LAPD and Jewish/American gangster Mickey Cohen. Cohen, played by Sean Penn is the perfect personification of the 40′s gangster, hard, ruthless and brutal. The LA Kingpin goes head to head with the Los Angeles Police Department in all-guns-blazing style. The LAPD assembles a crack squad of undercover agents to make the most star-studded outfit on the big screen in years, featuring Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin and Giovanni Ribisi.

If you haven’t seen the film, and you need proof that you’ve made a terrible mistake, here’s the trailer.

There are many factors about the film that offer an enjoyable experience. As Gangster Squad is based on a true story it draws real strength from being shot in location in Bellflower, LA. From my personal experience, I’ve always been left feeling disillusioned when I’ve really enjoyed a film, only to find that it was shot hundreds of miles away from its setting. But doing their utmost to stay true to the layout of 1948 Los Angeles, Fleischer and his team excel and propelling you into a first-rate cinematic experience.

Although Gangster Squad can be branded simply as an action film, it’s hard to ignore the compelling blend of genres, including Film Noire, Thriller and run-of-the-mill action. Pleasingly, Gangster Squad takes many stylistic elements from Film Noir (albeit an evolved form) such as the defining element of pessimism in post-war LA.

There are only few negatives to take away from this film. After taking some time to think after I’d seen the film, I couldn’t help but draw over-bearing comparisons to other films, in particular Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009). There were times that I felt that it was an American gangster interpretation. Here’s what I mean:

  • Inglourious Basterds: Mid-War group of ‘under the radar’ soldiers conceive plans to bring down Hitler, the ‘bad guy’ who has grown too large to handle.
  • Gangster Squad: 1948 – A group of under cover police officers conceive plans to bring down Mickey Cohen, a ‘bad guy’ who has grown too large to handle.

Overall, it has to be said that Gangster Squad is a no-holds-barred film that is entirely worth your hard-earned cash. Whether you caught it in the cinema, or you pick it up on DVD when it’s released.

Check out Gangster Squad‘s Facebook page here.

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