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Movie Review: Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad

Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writers: Will Beall, Paul Lieberman (book)
Stars: Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Josh Brolin

Synopsis: Los Angeles, 1949: A secret crew of police officers led by two determined sergeants work together in an effort to take down the ruthless mob king Mickey Cohen who runs the city.

The movie starts out with some pretty graphic scenes which makes you think that the movie is going to be in the direction of a typical violent mafia movie. However the movie really gets a lot cleaner as it moves on adding lot’s of action and dialogue to create a 1940’s Los Angeles atmosphere. The movie starts to pick up when Chief Parker, played by Nick Nolte, picks Sgt. John O’Mara to make war against Mickey Cohen, played by Sean Penn. The action becomes a little predictable and at times cheesy, but it still keeps an entertaining value and is fun to watch. After not believing in the group at first, Sgt. Jerry Wooters, Ryan Gosling, teams up with the Cop outlaws as they start to reek havoc on Cohen’s schemes. The direction is pretty straight forward here and while some of the shots are great, most of the movie was disappointing.

Grade: B-

While I like the action, one major flaw is the character of Grace Faraday, play by Emma Stone. While her performance is okay, the character itself is pointless and adds no value to the movie. She starts a fling with Sgt. Wooters, which becomes a central story arch of the movie, but really adds nothing to the plot. In essence, they bring in Emma Stone to bring a little bit of star value while her character is flawed from the core. The dialogue is unique in that it’s the 1940’s but it’s also modern at the same time. I think overall the script is predictable and page and could have been spiced up a little bit.

Grade: B

The performances by Gosling, Stone and Brolin were actually very good given the script and direction. I think Brolin brought a strong, cop presence to the screen. Gosling was also good and had a convincing 1940’s tone that I really liked a lot. Sean Penn was a great Mickey Cohen. I thought he nailed the performance wonderfully and brought Cohen to life. It’s just sad that a bad script and a poor direction couldn’t have made these performances more memorable.

Grade: A-

The best part of the movie, easily, is the score by Steve Jablonsky. Jablonsky keeps the dramatized rhythms you’d expect from a movie like this while adding some heightened elements in movie’s biggest climatic scenes. It’s a score that I’d listen to again outside of the movie. The movie also adds some great 1940’s songs and sounds to the soundtrack which makes the music very likable and make the movie way more likable than it would be otherwise.

Grade: A-

Overall Grade: B-


Huge movie fanatic and InSession Film founder and owner. I pretend to know a lot about movies, but mostly I'm good at discussing them. My favorite movies include Shawshank Redemption, Warrior, Top Gun and Transformers (fav as a kid!). Follow me on Twitter @RealJDDuran

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