Starting off the year good

Scarface, the Godfather, John Dillinger and now Mickey Cohen, these men have attempted to stand above the law time and time again.  For years, audience members have enjoyed watching the power these men have wielded as they spread a reign of terror across their cities.  Yet the organized crime world has had many dry spells in the cinema world, leaving the art of gangster tales to the television studios.  Tonight though, I was entertained by the latest action crime drama entitled Gangster Squad.

Now if you’re like me, you may have had your doubts when you saw the commercial.  The idea of a band of off the book cops uniting to take on the scourge of L.A. may have been a little far-fetched.  Sure Josh Brolin has a little bit of lone warrior in him, a.k.a Jonah Hex, but I had my doubts about Ryan Gosling’s role after seeing the movie Drive.  After all most of the roles the blue eyed, blonde hair star plays have been more about kissing than killing.  Yet the Gangster Squad seems to have opened up a new door for Gosling allowing him to finally take on the action genre.  Although Gosling still retains many of his chick flick traits, his character has some bite as he brandishes the weapon with L.A’s best.  The squad is awesome in this movie as each member contributes some quality to make it efficient, fun and colorful.  Brolin’s edge, and take no crap attitude drives the group to take risks.  Anthony Mackie provided some wit and justice, while adding some razor sharp knife throwing skills to mix up the action a smidge.  Robert Patrick and Michael Peña provide the extra gun power to the squad, though Patrick’s character has some well-timed lines that made the audience and I laugh.  Fans of the awkward Giovanni Ribisi will rejoice him again, as his character adds the intelligence and strategy to coordinate the squad’s efforts.  All of these characters had a chemistry together that complemented the chemistry these actors had with one another.  These guys were a great cast for this movie, each filling in their cop role quite well with no cheesiness or macho heroism.  Also contributing to the fantastic cast is Sean Penn, who not only looked the part of a gangster, but played the part as well.  Penn managed to don the sinister cloak, using a calm demeanor and merciless commands to get his way in the city.  Like the classic mob bosses, his actions speak louder than his words, as his soulless response to the ruthless acts makes you both hate and respect him.

Thus, this cruel tyrant’s reign and character are what set up the good plot of this movie.  Although simple and tired, Gangster Squad’s pace, action, and characters keep it fresh, fun and exciting to watch for the two hour time frame.  Unlike some crime drama movies, Gangster Squad kept a pace that didn’t feel slow to me.  One reason was the movie interlaced the plot and character development, with action that helped to break up the slower scenes used to build the tension.  The action scenes were executed perfectly to momentarily relieve the building conflict before bringing the audience into the tension of the scene.  For me the action was nicely balanced with most of the battles being longer than a minute, yet fast enough to not drag on and have you praying it to end.  I’m sure many will say the battles paled in comparison to the classic mafia films, but these battles have been some of the best I have seen in a long time.  Instead of a mindless bloodbath filled with bullets flying into and through people’s heads, these battle scenes returned to the classic style of combat.  Both gangsters and cops used the environment for cover, attempting to gain the advantage with some clever strategies.  Of course in any gun fight there are still idiots who stand in the open who can’t seem to hit anything other than the conveniently placed cars.

Have you gotten the idea that fighting makes up a good part of this movie?  Good because that is the main feature this movie has to offer.  Yet Gangster Squad does have a few other qualities that help keep things fun and entertaining.  The story is simple and easy to follow, and combined with the characters is suspenseful enough to keep you into the story.  Unfortunately the story is still cliché of a typical mob movie and is fairly predictable to determine what events are happening next.   The setting of this world is also impressive, helping bring you into the mafia world in the retro Los Angeles.  Flashy casinos, live singing, and sleazy crime joints filled with shady looking men are brought to life in this mafia underworld.  Other things to quickly mention are the camera work is good, the action is somewhat diverse, and there is some humorous dialog interspersed throughout the movie.  Yes I know it’s not much, but there aren’t too many things that stand out in this movie from what I talked about earlier.

Overall, I enjoyed Gangster Squad despite the predictable storyline and mafia cliché’s.  Yes, I’m still a little bias towards the action, but I did find the movie balanced on many levels.  I would have liked to have seen more from Emma Stone’s character, but the Squad itself made up for the lack of her involvement.  Yes there are still some things that need to be edited, but it’s definitely one of the better gang movies I’ve seen in a long time.  I feel that this is definitely one meant to be seen in the theater in all its surround sound glory.  Yet for those who don’t like mafia movies, naturally you are going to want to avoid it.

My scores: 

Action/Crime/Drama: 8.5

Movie Overall:  8.0

So until next time my friends, this is Robbie K signing off.


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