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Gangster Squad (Blu-ray Review)

2 May, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Box Office $46 million
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence and language.
Stars Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone.

Los Angeles has a rich history of organized crime, including being birthplace to the film noir genre showcasing pulp fiction writers Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard and Dashiell Hammett, among others.

With an all-star cast, stellar sets and noir lighting, Gangster Squad should have been a smart extension of a genre that includes such great movies as L.A. Confidential, The Untouchables, Bugsy and Chinatown, among others, depicting a lawless City of Angels in the 1940s.

However, Squad is an unoriginal take on bad-boy pugilist-turned-gangster Mickey Cohen (played singularly by Sean Penn), who, when not pummeling adversaries establishing gambling, gun, drug and prostitution operations, fires Tommy guns indiscriminately into what’s left of the vacuous storyline.

If nothing else, Chandler’s women epitomize street-smart femme fatales who often double cross double-crossers. Alas, Gangster’s dame, Grace Faraday (Emma Stone), remains not much more than a dewy-eyed amusement to Ryan Gosling’s character.

The plot revolves around infamous LAPD Chief William Parker (Nick Nolte), who creates a rogue team of cops and ne’er-do-well types — off the books, of course — with the mission to take down Cohen, regardless of his constitutional rights.

In an interesting twist, the squad, led by Det. John O’Mara (James Brolin), includes black and Latino officers Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie) and Navidad Ramirez (Michael Peña). Historically, Chief Parker was the antithesis of diversity within the workplace, or L.A. for that matter. His struggles with a young black LAPD cop (and future L.A. mayor) Tom Bradley are well-documented in the book L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City.

Fortunately, much of the real story surrounding Gangster Squad can be found in a bevy of special features, including “The Gangland Files,” “The Set-Up,” “Rogues Gallery: Mickey Cohen” (narrated by William Devane) and “Tough Guys With Style.”

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