Entertainment » Movies

Gangster Squad

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Apr 23, 2013
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Warner Bros. was famed for its gangster films, so it’s only fitting that the studio should be behind a latter-day rendition of tommy guns, glamorous molls, and good guys who are just as filled with bare-knuckles bravado as the baddies.

"Gangster Squad" owes as much to "The Untouchables" as to classic films like "Little Caesar" and "The Public Enemy." What’s a little shocking is that it also owes something to "Dick Tracy." The screenplay by Will Beall is adapted from the book by Paul Lieberman, who dug deep to find out about the true events behind the story we see here, but the film is cartoonish in energy as well as execution. Josh Brolin’s jaw, if accessorized with a yellow fedora, could all too easily summon up memories of Warren Beatty slogging through his four-color 1990 opus.

The basic premise: It’s 1949 and Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn, running his actorly engines at Warp Five) has picked some major fights with the Chicago mob. Chaos and murder are the order of the day, and things only get bloodier (and more fiery) when Sgt. John O’Mara (Brolin) enters the fray. At the behest of police chief Parker (Nick Nolte), O’Mara recruits a special team from the ranks: a timid support guy (Giovanni Ribisi), a crusty old gun hand (Robert Patrick), his old war buddy Jerry (Ryan Gosling), a black cop (Anthony Mackey), and a Hispanic rookie no one wants to partner with out of racist prejudice (Michael Peña). Their mission: Act like gangsters to take Cohen down and drive him out.

This is noir to an almost parodic T, and whether you view it as comedy or crime drama (hint: It works better as a comedy) the film’s design makes it worth viewing. Dynamic camera work gives the action sequences extra verve. It’s the ultimate Saturday movie serial, but it’s also pretty soft-headed for something so hard-boiled.

The DVD has a handful of movie previews and one special feature -- a short featurette titled "Tough Guys With Style." The real stuff is on the Blu-ray disc: commentary by director Ruben Fleischer; deleted scenes; several featurettes ("The Gangland Files," "Tough Guys With Style," and a "Rogues Gallery").

"Gangster Squad"
Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack
$29.95
http://www.wbshop.com/product/code/1000284146.do?adid=wbpbuygangstersquad

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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