‘Gangster squad’: A love song to L.A.

By Molly Grosskreutz Arts & Entertainment Editor and

Valerie Groebner Arts & Entertainment Assistant Editor

Kicking off the list of noteworthy 2013 movies is Ruben Fleischer’s period mob movie “Gangster Squad.” It is just after World War II, and soldiers return to Los Angeles only to find that the fight is not over; their city has been taken over by ruthless mob king Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). Sargeant John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) assembles an undercover squad to shut down Cohen’s intricate power system and restore peace to the city.

MG: This film is many things: an action movie faithful to the cop versus robber genre; plenty of car chases, gunshots and neat special effects. It is also an impressive period piece. This film is not many other things. It is neither complicated nor deep. But it’s not trying to be.

VG: I was thoroughly taken aback by the violence and gore—I caught myself cringing for a few good minutes during such scenes. However, it’s no surprise that such actions occurred within 40s-era gangs. For the A-List, pop culture hungry groups, this is just the flick to see, especially if you have a yearning for vintage aesthetics. I questioned the portrayal of fashion, though. Like many of us, I was not there in the 1940s to witness what was actually worn, but something tells me that middle-to-high class US citizens of this era didn’t dress to the perfection that was in this film.

MG: Emma Stone plays Cohen’s etiquette coach, Grace Faraday. Having seen her in several other movies and knowing what she’s capable of, I was disappointed in how infrequently we see her in this. For once, she was the damsel in distress, constantly leaving the scene to powder her nose or smoke a cigarette. She completely lacked her characteristic wit, although this is by far her most glamorous role.

VG: I saw Grace as more of a call girl than an etiquette coach. Maybe the director could have given her better directions as to what she was intended to portray. I have to agree that this was “her most glamorous role,” and she does old-Hollywood very well. However, it does make some sense that her wit was suppressed as women of this era were seen as a nice piece of meat. We can’t always have our cake and eat it, too.

MG: This movie embraces the fact that it is highly stylized. I think the team behind this production did a wonderful job taking us back to Los Angeles in 1949. The gorgeous sets and period costumes made me nostalgic for an era I was never a part of.

VG: Despite the fact that the perfection of fashion appearance has me questioning everything under the sun, I did think every element of the film was eye-catching and astonishing. I was impressed that Gosling’s character, Sgt. Jerry Wooters, had a certain stylized tone to his voice that resonates very well with that of a 1940s mystery man. In concurrence with Molly, I couldn’t help but want to live in this era and don the classy and coquettish garments displayed. I especially wouldn’t mind driving around town in a mint green, Cadillac Series Coupe de Ville.

MG: Usually, I don’t like action movies, but I appreciate that this movie embraces its simplicity in plot and centers its attention on the aesthetics.

VG: I too am rather leery of action movies myself, yet this film demonstrates different realms of cinema, and a nice spicy taste is always necessary.

Final Verdict

MG: Thumbs up.

VG: Thumbs up.

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