Without much of a stir, "Gangster Squad" came and went at the box office but when Warner Home Video sent over a copy on Blu-Ray for review, I was eager to take a look. For some reason I am a sucker for 40s-style gangster movies, and with Sean Penn in the lead, this could be really good. so, I spun up the disc and watched.
In Los Angeles during the late 1940s, a ruthless mob king is emerging by the name of Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), trying to take over the city. Buying off officials, policemen and judges alike, the mobster's power grows on a daily basis and there seems to be no way of stopping him. He even declares war with the Chicago mobsters who considered Los Angeles their extended territory, and ruthlessly kills anyone who will get in his way, doesn't fit his plans or simply looks at him the wrong way.
At this point, Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) realizes that Cohen has to be stopped or else he will, in fact, control and literally own and rule then entire city. He makes a one-man sting operation against Cohen and promptly brings down the wrath of the department upon himself - all of whom have been pocketing Cohen's money. All, but Chief Parker (Nick Nolte), who shares O'Mara's sentiment and puts him on the case, allowing him to form a squad team and go to to toe with Mickey Cohen. What follows is a bloody conflict in which neither party backs down until the problem is solved. One way or the other.
While "Gangster Squad" is an entertaining film on the whole, it is nothing special either, I'm afraid to say. It is highly formulaic and utterly predictable regurgitating clichÃ©s and moments we have seen countless times before in countless other movies and TV shows. Add to it the fact that the illusion is destroyed entirely every time Sean Penn appears on the screen with his prosthetic make-up that makes him look like a fairy tale dwarf. It also doesn't help that the accomplished actor rarely has screen time and what little there is, is limited to the grand posturing of a deluded mobster.
Josh Brolin comes across as a solid character, however, strong and rough, never intimidated by the mobsters around him. It is too bad, however, that the story never offers any real surprises or growth in the character - aside from that the three-act structure of the movie strictly dictates - because Brolin's character could have carried the movie on to the next level.
The 1080p high definition transfer of the movie is gorgeous to say the least. Free of blemishes and virtually pristine, the image revels in details an colors, making it a pleasure to behold. Black levels are utterly deep, giving the image tremendous visual depth and the noir-style shadows that make classic gangster films so iconic.
A DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track supplements the presentation, giving the film an active and aggressive ambiance. Surround usage is constant and dynamic, while the track's bass extension makes sure the bottom end of the spectrum is providing a foundation for the audio with ease. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable.
As extras the release contains a commentary track with director Ruben Fleischer. It provides ample insight into the making of the movie but the lack of distance form the project also makes it appear a little superficial at times.
Also included are a number of featurettes covering varying aspects of the film, such as "The Gangland Files," "The Set-Up," "Rogues' Gallery" and "Tough Guys with Style." The release is rounded out by a selection of deleted scenes.
"Gangster Squad" is an entertaining film, no more and no less. It is excessively violent, fitting squarely in with today's movie fare while maintaining a flair of classic mobster antics. While the direction of the film is stylish and engaging, the movie's excessively formulaic story makes it a bit underwhelming result overall.