This evening Vic and I went to see Gangster Squad.
‘Inspired by a true story’ (a statement that is, one assumes, almost entirely fictional), it’s a super-cool old-school gangster movie, set in the Forties, but with the special effects of 2013. It’s also extremely violent, the second scene of the film was so horrible that I felt the need to apologise to Vic for even suggesting that we go and see it, and yet so violent that at moments it was funny, almost cartoon-like in it’s approach. The genuine comedy of the film was funny, and I genuinely enjoyed watching it, enough to try and write something attempting intelligence in response.
On revealing that the film would be my blog post for this evening, Vic asked what I was going to say about it.
The first thing, the thing that I explained to her, is simply that the film is very cool and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the colour and sets, I enjoyed the music, I enjoyed the outfits, especially Emma Stone’s red lipstick (how I wish I was brave enough to wear that shade) and the men’s Fedora hats. And, frankly, Ryan Gosling with slicked-back hair, dog-tags, and a cigarette, is pretty hard to resist. To be quite honest, I am one of those awful people who thinks smoking looks cool, so a film where barely a cigarette-less scene went by was always going to be a winner in my books.
The second thing to say, is an attempt to be a little less vacuous, as I offer a slightly more intelligent and considered opinion on what I think the film was trying to say. The opening and closing comments focused on one statement, from the ‘hero’ of the piece, John O’Mara, ‘Everybody wears a badge’. His point is that everyone is loyal to something or someone, but the question that is raised throughout the film is, are there really ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’. O’Mara is supposed to be the hero, fighting for right, and fighting against Cohen, who is the villain, but the lines of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are quickly and violently blurred.
These days, as I watch films, I’m trying to pay closer attention to the details. The theory is that people who make films are pretty deliberate about the details they include, and that if one wants to understand their motivation, one should watch out for little things, in the hope that they’re saying something big. The thing I noticed was the writing on the wall (literally), on two occasions: firstly, etched into the stonework on the side of the Park Plaza Hotel (the setting of the final stand-off); and secondly, etched into the stone on the side of the Los Angeles City Hall.
The first is a quote from Matthew’s gospel, generally referred to as the Golden Rule:
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”
Matthew 7:12 (KJV)
The second is a quote from a speech made by Abraham Lincoln:
“Let us have faith that right makes might.”
So why are they there? Well, the way that the Gangster Squad behave is a sort of reversal of the Golden Rule; an ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ philosophy towards law enforcement, where they give up on arrests or trials, and just start shooting. But the question continues to be raised, ‘Is that okay?’ Is it okay for them to become just like the bad guys if they’ve got good on their side. Are they automatically heroes just because they win?
In summary: pondering (and being impressed by smoking).