Gangster Squad [Blu-Ray] Ruben Fleischer

Gangster Squad [Blu-Ray] Ruben Fleischer
5
In a strange attempt to pad the supplemental materials available with the Gangster Squad Blu-Ray, short documentary Rogue's Gallery — Mickey Cohen is included, along with the usual interview snippets and clips edited together under different headings, applying to casting, research, costumes and so forth. And while these publicity clips acknowledge the dissimilarities between the real Mickey Cohen and the one depicted by Sean Penn within the film, it's this documentary that exposes the intense differences and bizarre disconnect between reality and fiction. In real life, Cohen was as image-conscious as he was a cunning as the mastermind of the Los Angeles criminal underworld. Suffering from O.C.D. and masking his grade three education, he hired an etiquette specialist — one of the few things acknowledged in the film — and various publicity specialists to position himself as an ersatz antihero and victim of bureaucratic oppression. Contrarily, he's depicted in Gangster Squad as a completely unlikable Dick Tracy caricature, nefariously mutilating the bodies of any lackeys that fail to perform, drilling them in the head or re-enacting the Jennifer Jason Leigh death scene from The Hitcher. Framed by Fleischer's self-indulgent and exceedingly glossy noir lighting, hidden in the shadows and groomed impeccably like a model in a perfume commercial, he's cartoonish in menace, scowling his way through life without a speck of logic or charm. This is why the moral ambiguity presented when Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) is tasked by his Chief (Nick Nolte) with forming an underground group to subvert Cohen's criminal activities holds little intensity or power. When the technology guru (Giovanni Ribisi) of O'Mara's group of mostly incompetent thugs (they repeatedly fail, when not shooting Cohen's henchmen in the legs or shoulders) asks, "What makes us different than them?" very little thought or dramatic pause are given before they leap into another slickly designed shootout, where camerawork, costume and slow-motion imagery prove more important than story, character or cultural context. Possibly the only aspect of Gangster Squad given any consideration is the affair Sgt. Wooters (Ryan Gosling), O'Mara's right-hand man, has with Cohen's etiquette specialist and bed-buddy, Grace (Emma Stone). They make moony eyes at each other, building up to an inevitable conflict (Mickey has to find out sooner or later) that never really happens. In fact, when Wooters finally has to step back from protecting Grace briefly, it's treated with all of the dramatic heft of a meal choice. Unfortunately, Ruben Fleischer is far more interested in the artifice of it all — the lighting, the designs and the many shootouts and explosions — than he is in telling a story or depicting real-life people with any sort of dignity. This leaves the actors mostly going through the motions, with little freedom to interpret or perform, which is likely why Gosling does little more than smirk for the entire film. Everyone seems partially aware that this is all just trashy sensationalism and rote clichés, save the costume and set designers, who did a kick-ass job making everything look super-slick. (Warner)