Blu-ray Review: ‘Gangster Squad’

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"Gangster Squad" debuts in home video format via a two-disc set housing the film's Blu-ray, DVD, UV digital, and iTunes digital copies. This 2013 picture's theatrical release was infamously delayed for a few months in the wake of the tragic Aurora theater shooting in 2012. The production decided to reshoot its mid-movie shootout in order to remove the sequence involving a massacre in a movie theater. Ruben Fleischer helms this period actioner that stars Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh B rolin, Emma Stone, Nick Nolte, and Robert Patrick.

Set in mid-20th century Los Angeles, this gangster drama chronicles the police department's secret mission to take down real-life mobster Mickey Cohen. A self-appointed boss of the California criminal underworld, he plans to further expand his territory by keeping the highest judges and senior officials on his payroll and making sure that virtually all crime activities running through the West Coast goes through him. When a policeman finds the rare opportunity to fight him, he assembles a secret undercover unit tasked to crush the kingpin's empire by any means necessary.

Visuals

Fleischer's visual panache reflects his evocative use of lights and shadows in his sumptuous period locales and glamorous sets. Marking his own stylistic pursuits, his very polished digital look is quite ironic of the fact that the story is set in the 1940s. Moreover, for a narrative that primarily hinges on violence, the action scenes may revel in machine guns, mayhem, and death, but the scenes still turn out as not overly graphic in terms of its overall presentation.

Colors are clearly doused in darkness for most shots. Skin tones remain warm and saturated throughout. The picture's stark contrast never falters. No crucial noise, specks, marks, or scratches creep into the picture. Banding, ringing, aliasing, and other visual anomalies are also nowhere to be found.

Audio

The weighty five-channel lossless track exhibits a wholly immersive soundfield that is not only filled with a variety of rapid-fire pulses of audio effects, it is also packed with many stilted tough talks, sexy conversations, and dramatic discussions. Beautifully modulated for entertainment's sake, the busy mix lends a really expansive feel to the picture's mostly mundane moments. The wide dynamic range allows the quieter scenes to also employ a more intimate subtlety to the track. No hints of distortion, hissing, and other aural flaws plague the mix.

Supplements

This disc edition supplies a variety of bonus materials including a director's audio commentary, the in-movie picture-in-picture offering "The Gangland Files," a collection of deleted scenes, the informative installment of "Rogues Gallery" that profiles gangster Mickey Cohen entitled "Rogues Gallery: Mickey Cohen," the location featurette "Then and Now Locations," and the 1940s Los Angeles featurette entitled "Tough Guys with Style." Subtitle options are available in English SDH, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

Final Thoughts

"Gangster Squad" recreates a volatile period in Los Angeles history through a gratuitous display of stylized beats that are often rough, flashy, and flaunting a fair amount of conceit, just like the story's villain. There is a fair bit of fun and comic camaraderie to get from it, but the poorly developed material is still not capable of going deeper than its tough guy action and melodrama exterior. Underneath all the bravado, the script remains a chock load of clichés. With a mix of a few nuanced, believable performances and a couple of cartoonish onscreen renditions, most characters seem like cardboard cutouts from comic books and other literary and cinematic sources. Nevertheless, this type of flick best serves those who are easily swayed by embellishments, exaggeration, and audio-visual grandeur.

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