Don’t let the trailer fool you, ‘Gangster Squad’ is a must-see
Set in post-WWII era Los Angeles, “Gangster Squad” is the story of a town that succumbs to the criminal monarchy of a rising mobster, Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). Cohen is vigilant in his message when he says, “Los Angeles is MY town!” as he stretches a rival gangster from another horde between two cars. He wants the world to know that nothing happens in L.A. without his say so. The police force stands idly by as he terrorizes the city and spreads his drugs throughout the town, since the police are also on his payroll. It seems like there is a dismal future for L.A.
One man, still loyal to his oath as a police officer, just returned to his town after the war and sees that there is no justice left in the place he chose to raise a family. Sgt. John O’Mara decides to ruffle some feathers as he sends Mickey a message of his own by infiltrating his rampart and exacting justice on his henchmen to rescue a kidnapped girl. An honest police chief finds out about this act of valor and asks O’mara if he would like to go off the grid and assemble a gang of his own and try to steal the spotlight away from Mickey. O’mara agrees and puts together his own squad that consists of men with individually unique talents. When they put their skills to the test, they become an unstoppable force that operates outside the law.
Go see this movie. “Gangster Squad” surprised me at every turn. Every element of this movie was perfectly executed. For starters, the cinematography was so fresh and thought out that it was like watching a piece of art. There were slow-motion side-scrolling steady shots that actually told an entire story as the camera panned from one spot to another. There is a scene involving a dark room, a lot of fighting and some gunplay that uses the actual muzzle blast to paint a picture on the screen, giving you a glimpse at what is happening. You will find yourself leaning in your seat to try changing your vantage point because you feel like you are in the scene.
For some unbeknownst reason, I hate Sean Penn. I am not certain why — after all he was, Spicoli, right?. Perhaps it’s a deep-rooted jealousy that I used to harbor because he was dating Madonna when I had a crush on her during her “Who’s That Girl” phase. Moving on.
As I mentioned, the main antagonist in this movie is played by Penn. He comes off as being a ruthless, merciless savage with a rich history in fighting his way to the top with his fists, guns and all-around intimidating persona. “Gangster Squad” will forever be remembered as the movie that made me like and respect Penn as an actor. Every time he was on camera I was wondering what he was going to do next and actually felt pity for many of his victims. It has been years since there was a villain so loathsome that I couldn’t wait to see him get what was coming to him. Every time a character took a swing at him, I swung too. When, O’Mara’s fist connected with his bleeding jaw, I smiled. Penn played the bad guy role so well that I honestly wanted to see him brought to justice in the movie.
There is a car chase scene that transpires during a drug run. I have not seen a car scene that can even come close to the freeway scene from “The Matrix: Reloaded.” Everything since then has been sort of “seen it” for me. I am always wondering if there will be a movie that can have a car scene that was as fun and original as that one. “Gangster Squad” delivers again! It is very cool to see the old late 40s-model Packards, Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles in this movie — you know, the iconic “gangster” cars of yesteryear. But how could they make a cool chase scene with those bulky vehicles and their limited abilities? It is with a lot of raw, clever choreography and a great cast. This scene redefined what a car chase scene can be. These cars are not streamlined or very fast, so there is a lot of bumping and flying bullets as the good guys chase down an envoy of gangsters. They have to be resourceful as they narrowly miss being blown up by dynamite that is being tossed from a car in front of them. O’Mara climbs out of the backseat and into the driver seat as he takes the wheel to swerve all over the road. This stirs up a lot of dust and impairs the remaining vehicles behind them. Then they play a game of chicken while under the concealment of the dust cloud. It was so fun to watch this whole scene unfold. From the opening credit sequence to the rolling credits, “Gangster Squad” is full of thrills and fast-paced action.
The only negative comment that I have about this movie is the trailers did not make it look like a movie that I felt the need to see in theaters. It did not make the movie look bad in any way, but there are a lot of things I think they could have put in the trailer that would have given a better insight to the movie. There was no moment that I said to myself, “I better pre-order my tickets today!”
Showtimes at Rave Motion Pictures Polaris 18, 1071 Gemini Place for Friday: 11:15 a.m., 2:15 p.m., 5:15 p.m., 8:15 p.m., 9:45 p.m. and 11 p.m.