Hollywood Hard Hitters

Gangster Squad

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Director: Ruben Fleischer

Cast: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Holt McCallany, Michael Pena, Sean Penn, Sullivan Stapleton, Nick Nolte, Mireille Enos, Josh Pence

Based upon the fascinating non-fiction book, Gangster Squad by Paul Lieberman, the beautifully yet violent cinematic rendition of the story of how an elite group of LA cops formed a Gangster Squad to tackle the effects of organized crime in post-wars Los Angeles, is thrilling to watch, engrossing and thoroughly entertaining. Featuring an all star cast including Ryan Gosling as Jerry Wooters, Josh Brolin as Jack O’Mara, Emma Stone as Grace Faraday and Sean Penn as the malevolent gangster Mickey Cohen who terrorized the Hollywood Boulevard in the early days of the city of angels growth is both visceral and heartfelt.

Giovanni Ribisi and Michael Pena also star as electronics expert Conwell Keeler and Officer Navidad Ramirez respectively in this brotherhood tale of elite cops fighting the influences of organized crime in the form of the vicious New York immigrant Mickey Cohen. Whilst Paul Lieberman’s novel goes into a truly in depth analysis of the origins of organized crime in Los Angeles, before and after the 2nd World War especially as California and Nevada become ripe for the East Coast families to increase their criminal activities. In this case Chicago crime emissary Jack Dragnet, played by Jon Polito is soon wiped out by Mickey Cohen who will go to any lengths to become Los Angeles’s crime boss.

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Directed by Ruben Fleischer, Gangster Squad skips over much of the social history in favour of making a sleek, glamorous and violent film about the sharp shooting and mischievous Squad which successfully undermined Mickey Cohen’s grip on the city of Angels in the late 40’s and early 50’s. Not nearly as measured and brilliant as Barry Levinson’s film Bugsy about Bugsy Seigel’s establishment of Las Vegas in the late 40’s, Gangster Squad comes off more as a nostalgic pastiche of all great Gangster films from the same genre most notably The Untouchables, Bugsy and the brilliant L. A. Confidential.

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Gangster Squad features a smooth talking Ryan Gosling in what is really an ensemble piece about a group of men who go to any lengths to undermine the mob king in their town often at their own personal costs. Gosling’s screen time with Emma Stone is fabulous along with some particular brilliant and captivating action sequences, Gangster Squad is held together by a brilliant cast, fabulous sets and a superb retelling of an emerging city out of the clutches of crime and into those of glamour and cinema, which is what Los Angeles is more famous for today.

Recent more grittier films about Los Angeles downtown crime film like End of Watch also starring Michael Pena shot in a Southlands TV series style has not changed the image that LA is still a city plagued by foreign criminal organizations or crazy criminals as immortalized in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and not so much by East Coast immigrants as it was in the first half of the 20th century.

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Paul Lieberman’s book Gangster Squad is a brilliant read as his detailed history of the city of Angels in the mid 20th century is perfectly captured and exceptionally well researched.  The Hollywood film version of Gangster Squad is by all respects a brilliantly recreated 1940’s handsome cinematic experience complete with Slapsy Maxies also starring Nick Nolte as Chief Parker and Anthony Mackie as Officer Coleman Harris and worth watching for the quirky dialogue, well orchestrated action sequences,  and will surely delight those fans who loves similar styled mobster movies!

 

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