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Gangster Squad, or Why Grey is the New Black and White

Warner Bros.
Love the font.

I'm not an expert in the genre of "film noir", but I'm guessing Gangster Squad falls under it, for three reasons: 1) it's a crime drama of the organized crime variety; 2) it's set in 1930s Los Angeles; and 3) it reminds me of Rockstar Games's L.A. Noire.

Still haven't played this game.

But I'd like to focus this discussion on only one aspect: Sean Penn (who plays gangster Mickey Cohen), a source of both strength and weakness for this film.

Warner Bros.
"How come we're not part of the discussion?"

Sean Penn's strength lies in his performance. Excellent, as usual. Rarely does Sean Penn fail to deliver. Penn is one of those actors who just raises the performance level of every actor who shares a scene with him. I'm not saying that the likes of Josh Brolin can't function well without Penn. I'm saying that the likes of Ryan Gosling probably wouldn't have tried that whiny voice if Sean Penn wasn't in this film.

Warner Bros.
"Oh. It's you again."

The weakness here lies in the characterization of Mickey Cohen. Granted that this film takes place in the 1930s, this film was nevertheless made recently. And we know that in this day and age, there is no longer room for one-dimensional, purely evil characters. The most effective characterizations are those that portray both the good and bad sides of a person. Just like in real life, there are no people who are purely good or purely evil. Except maybe Pope Francis or the Dalai Lama. So the most important lesson here: Grey is the new black and white.

Warner Bros.
I've seen this act done a lot of times, but this is the first time I've seen the aftermath.

Gangster Squad. USA. 2013.

Original rating: 6.9 / 10
Attempt at racial diversity by casting Anthony Mackie and Michael Peña: + 0.2 each
Robert Patrick's and Giovanni Ribisi's untimely deaths: - 0.1 each
Not enough Emma Stone sex scenes: - 0.1
Too much Nick Nolte: - 0.1
Final rating: 6.9 / 10

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