Burlesque clubs, drive– by shootings and organized crime…Gangster Squad paints a dark and stylish portrait of 1949 Los Angeles. The film exposes rampant political corruption set against L.A.’s Art Deco architecture. Sean Penn is terrifying as the retired prize fighter turned power hungry mobster Mickey Cohen. Cohen squares off against ruthless police Sgt. John O'Mara played by Josh Brolin with his gun-toting, suit clad posse in tow. Trench coats were prominently worn throughout the film. They added a polished refinement to men’s suits and helped conceal their weapons. Shoulder holsters and suspenders reinforced the macho image by accentuating the size and shape of the male torso.
Emma Stone plays Grace Farraday, aspiring actress and Cohen’s arm candy. Her sense of style embodied the seductive yet mysterious quality of women’s post-war fashions. Her gowns were constructed from rich lustrous fabrics in bright jewel tones emphasizing the female form in a tasteful manner. Her high slit gowns paid tribute to forties screen siren Rita Hayworth in Gilda. Other notable construction details included delicate draping, peek–a–boo cut outs and halter necklines. This was a time when women’s fashions left more to the imagination, a notion that is beginning to resonate more with young women today.
Gangster Squad may have its share of gratuitous violence but it manages to capture a visually stunning moment in L.A.’s history from flashy zoot suits to glitzy Chinatown. Brolin’s character may have summed it best when he said, "L.A. may not be paradise, but it’s the city of angels."
Reviewer: Jesse Negrete, Reference & Student Services Specialist FIDM San Diego Campus