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Gangster Squad review

Photo Courtesy Campus Wire Service

Self-proclaimed movie buff and spare time film producer Ryan Hoffman is a freshman video production major. His love and interest in film has called him to review movies for your entertainment .

As most moviegoers know, film trailers can be misleading. This can be a good or bad thing; a film can open to great reviews and audience word-of-mouth after having a lousy or subpar trailer, or a terrible film can be marketed with all of the best scenes from the film exclusively shown in the trailer. Unfortunately, the latter happens much more often than the former.

The frustrating thing about Gangster Squad, starring a well-bred cast of Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and Sean Penn, is judging by its trailer, it had the potential to be an ultra-violent and clever spin on the gangster genre.

Instead, the film itself only half-delivers on its promise. Director of photography Dion Beebe gives the cinematography a lush tone and stylistic flair and production designer Maher Ahmad convincingly takes us back to 1940’s Los Angeles, glamorous and grimy at the same time. The actors are certainly all game, and it’s a joy to watch them play their respective parts as undercover cops, dames and ruthless villains.

Half of the problem with this film is just that: these characters don’t have much of a personality besides what’s just been described. Undercover cops, dames and ruthless villains may be interesting personalities to begin with, but not when we’ve seen those same characters dozens of times in any crime film over the past 20 to 30 years.

Ryan Gosling’s Jerry Wooters is the cool guy who talks up the ladies before shooting a bullet through two mobsters’ heads. Josh Brolin’s Sgt. John O’Mara is the hardened but likable hero who’s seen it all but accepts to go through with one last mission. You get the idea.

It’s about the same in terms of the action sequences. Shootouts, car chases and explosions are exciting things to watch, but the enjoyment of the film is lessened when these sequences aren’t presented in a new way.

This is pretty much the reason why the action movie genre has gotten a bad rap; besides mostly giving us stock characters, there’s only so many times one can see a choppily edited, you-know-what’s-about-to-happen-and-then-it-happens action sequence before they walk out of the theater.

On the flip side of the equation, there a few very hilarious and well-placed jokes sprinkled throughout Gangster Squad, adding a bit more pulp to the movie’s fiction. The sublime comedic moments, the actors’ willingness to play the roles straight, and the visual flair suggest a movie which could have been.

Gangster Squad marks itself as the first somewhat disappointing movie
of 2013.