Gangster Squad (2013)
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writers: Will Beall, Paul Lieberman (book)
Stars: Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
I have been seeing a trend in American pop culture of the justification of violence. It’s apparently okay to kill the bad guys as long as you only kill the bad guys. If you look at Dexter, Arrow, Justified, Burn Notice, among other TV shows and films, you see this trend of the “good guys” fighting against the “bad guys” using the bad guys techniques against them. I’m not sure I agree with that philosophy of justice. There is something wonderful about Law & Order and the process of justice and law that treats the bad guys as people. The idea that you are innocent until proven guilty has meant that a lot of innocent people have been able to prove their innocence even with the authorities trying to prove them guilty. But what do you do when someone has bought their freedom and their position so far up the ladder that they can get away with tearing a man apart by chaining him between two cars? That’s the kind of evil you are dealing with in Gangster Squad. With all witnesses scared to death to testify you can get away with murder, literally.
This film is violent, that was what was expected, I mean it is a gangster film, but it’s not just violent, it questions the morals and values we have about justice and law and order. Both the good guys and the bad guys are as bad as each other. They are killing people left, right, and centre and show no remorse. It is a necessary evil for the good guys because of what they are dealing with. But in the end it isn’t the violence that takes down Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) and his gang, it is the testimony of a bold witness, Grace Faraday (Emma Stone) who was Cohen & Sgt. Jerry Wooter’s (Ryan Gosling) lover. She was bold enough and protected enough to testify to take Cohen down. The justice system does still work; going against the law just amplifies the body count in the end.
Gangster Squad is an entertaining gangster film but it doesn’t do anything different to any other gangster film and so was slightly disappointing. It was dark and gloomy like other gangster films and even with it’s moments of light humour it didn’t move from the basic structure of a gangster film. To be honest I love the formula of gangster films, but I went in with the expectation that this would be different. I shouldn’t have been surprised that it wasn’t and it wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, it was just that it was unoriginal. Even with it being built upon a true story it was unadventurous. It’s a fun story and the acting is brilliant but it failed to inspire me.