April 23rd, 2013 marked the Blu-ray release for the Warner Home Video action crime thriller Gangster Squad.
The movie is loosely based on the secret exploits of a number of Los Angeles police officers who battled organised crime.
Mickey Cohen was the main focus of the team, and this rivalry is the basis of the story.
The film was originally set to be released late 2012, but was moved to 2013 in the wake of the Aurora shooting.
Gangster Squad the Movie
The film opens in 1949 Los Angeles, where gangster Mickey Cohen has established himself as the most powerful figure in the criminal underworld.
The police are not capable of stopping him, as Cohen has silenced witnesses and bribed officials in both the courts and the police.
After saving a young girl from some of Cohen’s thugs, Sgt. John O’Mara is personally selected by Chief Bill Parker to wage guerilla warfare on Cohen and force him out of Los Angeles.
O’Mara recruits fellow officers to join his secret squad, along with Max Kennard and his partner Navidad Ramirez.
O’Mara also tries to recruit Sgt. Jerry Wooters, who turns down the offer due to his disillusionment with his time on the police force.
Wooters remains close with his old friend Jack Whalen, who is involved with the criminal underworld and tries to keep Wooters safe from it.
However Wooters ignores his advice and secretly becomes involved with Cohen’s etiquette coach and girlfriend Grace Faraday.
After a shoe shine boy that Wooters has been minding gets killed in a mob hit, Wooters changes his mind and joins the squad.
The squad sets up a wire-tap at Cohen’s house, and use it to find Cohen’s business interests and shut them down.
However things don’t always go as planned, and while some battles are won, it is a long hard war.
Gangster Squad is an interesting film that pays homage to the gangster movies of the forties and the real Gangster Squad that operated in the forties and fifties.
The movie is shot in Film Noir style for the most part, though also has a slick modern feel to it.
The writers and film makers took quite a few liberties with the story, though many of the characters were real life people.
The film implies that Cohen was arrested for murder, though in reality, like Al Capone, Cohen was eventually convicted for tax evasion.
While it was a fairly straightforward story, I enjoyed the movie and think it will appeal to fans of the crime genre.
It is a very violent films at times, so it is not one for the squeamish!
The studio chose to re-shoot one of the more violent scenes in the wake of the Aurora shooting in July 2012.
The original showdown for the movie was set in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, but this was retooled to happen in Chinatown.
As a result, the release for the film was delayed from September 2012 to January 2013.
Sean Penn is excellent on the role of Mickey Cohen, and Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone also have strong performances.
Additionally the cast includes Nick Nolte, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi and Michael Pena.
The film was not treated kindly by critics with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 31%, while the public response to the film tended towards the positive, with an IMDb score of 7/10.
Personally I think the Rotten Tomatoes score is off the mark, while the IMDb is about right.
Gangster Squad had a decent run in the cinema, reaching $45.8M at the US box office, which was a little short of the $60M budget.
With other territories included though, the film exceeded $100M.
Gangster Squad on Blu-ray Disc
The video on the disc is an AVC 1080p encode at 20.5 Mbps, and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1.
The film has largely very dark and Film Noir style, with a bit of a smooth sheen to it.
No doubt these were the film makers’ choices, and the look is relatively easy on the encoder.
For full resolution PNG screen captures taken directly from the disc you can check the details page for Gangster Squad.
The main audio is lossless DTS-HD Master Audio with 5.1 channels – 16 bits resolution at 48 kHz.
The disc is a dual layer BD50, with 33.8 GB used and is coded for All Regions.
Gangster Squad on Blu-ray Disc – The Bonus Features
This release comes with a fairly extensive collection of extras, including two that run along with the feature.
The first is an audio commentary with director Ruben Fleischer.
Ruben is pretty talkative and offers his personal insights and production details as the movie plays out.
Then The Gangland Files is a Bonus View Picture in Picture feature.
This supplement pops up trivia windows during the movie, and on occasion allows you to exit the film to watch a Focus Feature.
These supplements are also directly accessible from the menu system if you prefer.
The Real Story talks about the actual Gangster Squad that the movie is based on.
This segment includes interviews with the film makers as well as members of the original squad and their children.
Archival footage, newspaper articles and pictures are included here.
Some of the artistic license employed by the film makers are also discussed.
The lead character is the focus of Josh Brolin on O’Mara.
O’Mara was one of the real life Gangster Squad.
One Long Continuous Shot covers the Slapsy Maxie’s location.
Since they actually rebuilt the entire set practically, they took advantage of this and added a great long shot that covered the whole exterior through to the interior of the club.
While it was a little gratuitous, it definitely gives a strong grounding in reality for the location.
Fashion of the 40’s discusses the wardrobe and the art direction for the movie.
The main romantic relationship of the movie is covered in Ryan and Emma United.
The the fictional character of Grace Faraday is highlighted in Emma Stone on Grace.
Here Emma discusses the joy of not having to live up to a real life character.
The Real Mickey Cohen looks into the real life gangster and the nature of his character.
Cohen was in love with publicity and celebrity as much as he was with his criminal enterprises, and was very charismatic.
Some of the background to the real story is also revealed here.
The character of Sgt. Wooters is highlighted in Ryan Gosling on Wooters.
The actor combined traits from the real Wooters with his own take on the character.
Since the movie places Wooters in fictional situations, there was room for artistic license in the interpretation of the character’s motivations.
The Real Gangster Squad delves into the real world Gangster Squad and relates their stories mostly through the descendants of the original members.
Most of the original members are no longer living, though there is some archival material included to reveal the details of the original crew.
The sets and locations for the movie are the focus of The Real Locations.
A number of the sets and practical locations are infamous and iconic, and the film makers have gone to great lengths to create an authenticity to the film.
Nick Nolte on Chief Parker dishes the background on the police chief.
The night club location gets more attention with the Inside Slapsy Maxie’s segment.
The production design and actual location used are discussed here by the art department and actors.
Ryan & Emma on the Set offers more coverage of the Grace and Wooters relationship.
The old gangster films from the forties are discussed in Bringing Back Gangsters.
Warner has a strong history in crime films, and the genre is a favourite for many of the cast and crew.
Park Plaza is the location for the final conflict, and it gets its own segment.
This iconic hotel is no longer operated as a hotel, though it is often used for film production.
The logistics of the gun battle are also revealed in this supplement.
On to the other supplements, the documentary Rogues Gallery: Mickey Cohen is included for good measure.
The episode runs 45 minutes and was produced in 2003.
Certainly a lot of background on the real Mickey Cohen here for those interested, including interviews and historical photos and footage of the times.
In Tough Guys with Style, the actors and director talk about the casting and the types of characters that comprised the Gangster Squad.
It was certainly an age when men were real men, and everybody lived in a smokey haze.
The destiny of a number of iconic locations for the film are the focus of Then and Now Locations.
Stills of the original locations in the 1940’s are presented, along with current pictures of the locations that are still standing.
Some of these are included in the Gangland Files Picture in Picture feature.
There is also a collection of eight or so deleted scenes, along with a brief introduction from the director.
All in all the collection runs over 12 minutes and include some major stunts that I am surprised were cut, while others are quite superfluous.
As is the way with Warner releases, Gangster Squad includes an UltraViolet Digital Copy code and a DVD Copy for legacy players.
Gangster Squad on Blu-ray – Final Thoughts
Gangster Squad is a pretty fun gangster movie that will appeal to fans of the crime genre.
Warner Home Video has put together a nice Blu-ray release here, with a good presentation and collection of supplemental features.
DVD and UltraViolet Digital Copy are also included.
The retail price is $35.99, or order it right now at Amazon for $24.99, saving 31%!
- Commentary with Director Ruben Fleischer
- The Gangland Files
- Rogues Gallery: Mickey Cohen
- Tough Guys with Style
- Deleted Scenes
Los Angeles, 1949. Ruthless, Brooklyn-born mob king Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) runs the show in this town, reaping the ill-gotten gains from the drugs, the guns, the prostitutes and-if he has his way-every wire bet placed west of Chicago. And he does it all with the protection of not only his own paid goons, but also the police and the politicians who are under his control. It’s enough to intimidate even the bravest, street-hardened cop… except, perhaps, for the small, secret crew of LAPD outsiders led by Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) and Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), who come together to try to tear Cohen’s world apart.