Gangster Squad (Blu-ray)

May 1, 2013 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Ah the January movie.  So many studios save their “B” list fodder for the post-Holiday crowds that it’s quite a rare feat to find a good one.  Take a look back at some of the movies that have come out in January and I challenge you to find one that’s either made a profit or has any semblance of critical acclaim.  Can’t find one?  Did you look?  Ok.  Nevertheless, when something looks good on paper, it doesn’t ring quite as true when or if the movie came out as we’re planning our New Year’s Resolutions.  Such is the case with Gangster Squad, a good movie in theory with a cast of “A” list actors that have done some great work…just not in this movie.  Are you a fan of gangster movies?  There are some good ones out there: GoodFellas, The Untouchables and of course the first two Godfather movies.  Go check one or all of those out.  If you’re still hanging around to see what this is all about, well here we go.

The year is 1949 and the country is entering the Baby Boom era with remarkable speed and success.  In Los Angeles, crime boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) rules with an iron fist with members of the police and local officials on his payroll.  Hard-nosed, by the book cop John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) is disgusted by Cohen’s antics but is powerless to do anything about them.  That is until Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) tasks O’Mara putting together a ragtag group of men to fight Cohen.  Of course these men are known by the name “Gangster Squad.”  O’Mara also tries to enlist the help of fellow cop Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) who isn’t interested initially, but has a change of heart when he sees a murder.  So it’s the cops versus the criminals in Los Angeles.  Who will prevail?

To its credit, there is actually a lot of historical accuracy in Gangster Squad.  This really did exist as did many of the locales that are showcased in the movie.  Mickey Cohen was a real person as was everyone in the cast, so if you’re interested in post World War II crime in Los Angeles, well this might just be your movie.  As mentioned, the cast is top notch but I just felt that several of the key players were mailing it in here.  And Emma Stone?  Ok, I find her attractive, but her presence here is just flat out annoying.  Sorry, but it’s true. If you’re looking for something to pass the time on a rainy day, then maybe this will suffice but I personally think that whatever redeeming qualities the film possesses are outweighed by the rather brittle performances by all involved.

Video: How does it look?

If you factor out the acting and just focus on the technical specs, well then you’re in for more of a treat.  Shown in a 2.40:1 AVC HD image, the film looks crystal clear and clean except in a very few brief sequences.  The heyday of Los Angeles in the late 40’s looks like you could step into the picture and fit right in.  Colors are bold, Emma Stone’s red dress illuminates and the tweed suits radiate detail like you wouldn’t believe.  Being a period movie, the darker scenes show strong contrast and black levels are strong and solid.  It’s really an outstanding transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

The uncompressed DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is again, top notch.  We’re immediately greeted with thumps and booms when the opening credits roll and when cops and robbers are involved we know one thing is sure to ensue – gunfire.  Yep, plenty of it and it’s very immersive.  Dialogue sounds great as well, Sean Penn’s grizzly and gruff voice sounds amazing and I’m not sure if Nick Nolte’s vocal cords have just gone shot or he was trying to channel some tough cop, but nevertheless vocals are strong and solid.  Surrounds are ever present, adding semblances of depth and discrete effects throughout.  An amazing example of sound.

Supplements: What are the extras?

With this sort of movie, Warner had two choices.  Release it as a bare bones disc or load it down with supplements and give the consumer a little more bang for their buck (pardon the pun).  They went with plan b.  There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started.  We start off with an audio commentary by director Rueben Fleischer who waxes prophetic on the film, the cast and the history of the film.  He’s a bit too technical in some places and there are enormous gaps in the track.  It has some interesting tidbits, but on the whole, it’s not that great of a listen.  Moving on we find “The Gangland Files”, a picture-in-picture feature that showcases the Blu-ray features like some tidbits here and there (photos, factoids, trivia, etc.).  Again it’s nice to have, but I don’t imagine watching it more than once.  The main draw here are the focus points, all 15 of them as in some of Warner’s other Blu-ray’s they’re pretty expansive, we get the skinny on some of the actors and their roles, the role of crime in film, fashion and some history of the real gangster squad.    There are 7 deleted scenes and a nice 45 minute documentary narrated by actor William Devane entitled “Rogues Gallery: Mickey Cohen.”  Two short featurettes are included as is an UltraViolet copy of the film and a DVD of the film as well.

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