Saturday, January 12

REVIEW: Gangster Squad

Directed by Ruben Fleischer
2013 Drama
1 hour 53 minutes
From Warner Bros. and
Village Roadshow

Josh Brolin
Ryan Gosling
Sean Penn
Emma Stone
Nick Nolte
Giovanni Ribisi
Anthony Mackie
Mirelle Enos
Michael Peña
Robert Patrick
Troy Garity

I used to see mobster Mickey Cohen occasionally in Brentwood, which was the neighboring city to mine, West Los Angeles.  I never saw him up close (probably a good thing) but one couldn't help but notice the pack of cars surrounding him.  A friend of mine lived on a busy Brentwood street, one full of apartments, and Cohen would visit someone there.  I think it was Liz Renay but it could have been Tempest Storm or Candy Barr.  Some were strippers or wannabe actresses.  All were overly made-up with big hair.  Cohen was the scourge of L.A., mainly in the 1940s and 50s.   He was a bigtime mobster who I always fantasized as being Al Capone.  He was always, always in the news, as were the above-mentioned women.

The rumor was that he had the cops in his pocket and it did seem for a long time that nothing ever happened to him.  He wasn't sneaky either.  In broad daylight he would kill people and blow up their businesses.

Unknown to me at the time (or I have forgotten), controversial L.A. Police Chief Parker got together six cops, all outsiders and mavericks, to work on their own, using whatever methods they deemed necessary, to catch Cohen and put him away.  And that is the gist of this film.

Gangster Squad comes to your local theater with some history.  It was supposed to open sometime during the last quarter of 2012.  There was a scene at the beginning of the film that dealt with a shooting in a movie theater.  After the Aurora, CO, shooting, the release was held up and then it was noted that the offending scene would be cut from the film.  Then the Newtown massacre happened and the decision was made to not release the film until January.

This is precisely the type of film that those who accuse Hollywood of glorifying violence have in mind.  It really is incredibly violent.  There is a scene where we are aware a man's head is going to be cracked open and we see his brains spill out for a milisecond when the scene changes to a hamburger on a grill.  Oh but there's so much more.

In my maneuvering around the web, I have seen some serious boo-hooing and belly-aching about this movie.  I went because this cast fires up my pistons but was expecting I wouldn't much like it.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Frankly, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  God knows it wasn't boring... not for a second.  In more ways than one it reminded me of Kevin Costner's The Untouchables and nobody whined about what a bad movie that was.  This has a glossy, pulp fiction look and feel to it... and so what?

It must have been old home week for some of the cast... Brolin and Penn worked together in Milk and Gosling and Emma Stone were in Crazy Stupid Love.  The acting was exactly what it should have been.

Penn, of course, is Mickey Cohen, looking pugilistic and scary.  The squad is Brolin, Gosling, Ribisi, Patrick, Peña and Mackie.  Nolte is Chief Parker.  Emma Stone is Cohen's girlfriend but she is really in love with Gosling which advances the plot as you can imagine.  Mirelle Enos was wonderful as Brolin's skeptical wife.

Of course I loved the period feel.  L.A. Confidential will not be dethroned as the greatest cop movie ever but the look of old L.A. was a thrill to me.  Loved the period clothing and hair, too.  Wonderful.  Mickey Cohen be damned, Los Angeles really was a wonderful city, a great place to live in the 1950s.

So the hell with all you critics who bum-rapped this film.  I think I can promise it will be a hit with the public, despite it being dumped in the movie dung-heap month that is January.  It certainly is violent, but what a cast, what a story, what a look and feel.

Joan Crawford in the 1950s

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