Gangster Squad Review

BY MICHAEL WALLS

Gangster Squad, directed by Ruben Fleischer and based on Paul Lieberman’s Los Angeles Times series “Tales From the Gangster Squad,” experienced a nationwide release to theaters on Friday, January 11.  The film recounts the criminal exploits of East Coast Mobster Mickey Cohen within mid-twentieth century Los Angeles, and the group of elite police officers who are enlisted to win back the city by any means necessary. Gangster Squad was an intense, yet comic movie recommended both for a number of outstanding performances by the members of its principal cast, and a particular number of truly awe-inspiring slow-motion sequences.

Veteran Actor Sean Penn occupies the role of Cohen, and provess to be an ideal choice for the role. His portrayal of Cohen is of a man who can appear entirely nonchalant while still retaining an aura of power, but who may quickly devolve into brutal displays of intimidation. The actors comprising the titular “Squad” of the film, which include Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena, Giovanni Ribisi, and Robert Patrick, also deliver inspired performances, though none are quite able to acheive the level of excellence inherent to Penn’s performance. In his portrayal of Squad Leader John O’Mara , Brolin is stoic to a fault,  and his lack of facial expressions for the duration of the film serve to detract from his otherwise competent performance. it a bit less believable. Ryan Gosling, who serves as the squad’s second-in-command, retains the suave persona from his performance in 2011’s Drive, is near-flawless, faltering only during scenes when he was tasked with expressing sadness.

One of the film’s most-stunning aspects is demonstrated in its expert use of slow motion. A number of sequences, including one depicting the effects of a Thompson submachine gun on a Christmas tree, which depicted both the violent destruction of the conifer and the cascade of the weapon’s spent copper casings as equally-graceful sequences, stand as some of the most memorable instances of the effect in recent memory. The effect is also employed in several of the film’s action set-pieces, including a climactic gunfight that features the film’s protagonists sliding along the ground amidst a hail of gunfire, and which is plentiful enough in its depiction of expert marksmanship to excite even the most jaded of action movie fans.

To its detriment, Gangster Squad features a slightly bloated running time of one-hundred and thirteen minutes. While not excessive by standards of modern cinema, the length of the  movie is acheived largely by an over-reliance on exposition, as a moderate portion of the film is devoted simply to providing the circumstances necessary for each of the characters to encounter one another. Consequently, some may find that the film seems to drag toward the middle of its running time, only to regain its sense of excitement during the film’s final scenes. Despite these minor pacing issues, Gangster Squad stands as one of the most exciting and well-executed films to premiere in 2013.

4 paws out of 5