Gangster Squad appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a positive presentation.
Sharpness looked fine. The style of photography meant a little stylized softness – and the digital cameras didn’t help - but the majority of the movie showed solid clarity and accuracy. No signs of jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and I witnessed no edge haloes. Print flaws also failed to mar the image.
Like many modern action flicks, Squad went with a teal and orange tint. Actually, given the period setting, the orange leaned a little sepia, but the stylized hues still dominated. Within their parameters, the hues looked fine; I wish the teal/orange trend would end, but I still thought the Blu-ray replicated them as desired.
Blacks were deep and dense, without any muddiness. Shadows were also pretty clear. Photographic choices occasionally meant some slightly dense low-light shots – like the opening torture scene with Cohen – but these images mostly worked fine. Overall, I found this to be a satisfying transfer.
Even better, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack added real punch to the proceedings. The soundfield frequently used all five channels to good advantage. The mix featured a wide and involving soundstage. Music demonstrated excellent stereo delineation, and the effects popped up all over the spectrum. Those elements showed nice localization and melded together smoothly.
The surrounds played an active role and added quite a lot to the mix. Given the frequent nature of the film’s action, the soundtrack gave us many opportunities for involvement, and it never disappointed me. This was a vivid and engrossing mix.
Happily, the audio quality lived up expectations as well. Speech consistently came across as warm and natural, and I noticed no signs of edginess or issues with intelligibility. Music could have become lost amidst all the effects, but the score managed to maintain its own personality. The music stayed loud and dynamic, as the track replicated the score with nice clarity and definition.
Unsurprisingly, the effects packed a wallop. They were vibrant and accurate, with clear highs and booming bass. Low-end was always tight and firm; the track exhibited genuinely terrific bass response. This became a high quality track.
Despite the movie’s low profile at the box office, the Blu-ray comes with a good array of extras. First we find an audio commentary with director Ruben Fleischer. He delivers a running, screen-specific look at story and characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, visual effects, period details, stunts and action, cinematography, editing and music, costumes, production design and some other areas.
Overall, Fleischer offers a pretty useful track. While he delves into the usual praise at times, he doesn’t wallow in happy talk. Instead, he gives us a fairly chatty and informational overview of the film. The track never becomes great, but it’s definitely worthwhile.
Called The Gangland Files, an interactive feature runs along with the movie. Introduced by actors Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi and Robert Patrick, we find no additional interview statements – not unless you count the “Focus Points” that you can select as branching features. Fleischer does pop up briefly at the end to thank us for viewing, though.
Since the “Focus Points” appear on their own elsewhere on the disc, I’ll discuss them there. Other than the option to branch off to the “Points”, the “Files” gives us a mix of still elements. We see text/photos that let us see LA in the 1940s and now, and we also get pictures of the movie’s period details. In addition, we can view text that gives us facts about the film’s characters and situations.
Some Blu-rays use this interactive option well, but the “Files” are fairly lackluster. While we learn some decent information along the way, the text and photos pop up with less frequency than I’d like. This means we go through fairly substantial sections with no material, and that makes this an erratic presentation.
Available as branching segments during “Files” or on their own, we find 15Focus Points. These featurettes fill a total of 46 minutes, 28 seconds and provide notes from Fleischer, Patrick, Ribisi, Mackie, executive producer Paul Lieberman, screenwriter/LAPD detective Will Beall, Jack O’Mara’s daughter Maureen O’Mara Stevens, producers Michael Tadross, Kevin McCormick and Dan Lin, Jerry Wooters’ son David Wooters, journalist Pete Noyes, original Gangster Squad member Sgt. Lindo Giacopuzzi, Officer Jack O’Mara, production designer Maher Ahmad, cinematographer Dion Beebe, costume designer Mary Zophres, SPFX foreman Terry Chapman, property master Douglas Fox, and actors Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Mireille Enos, Emma Stone, and Nick Nolte.
We learn the real-life story/characters behind the film and their depiction in Squad, set and costume design, cast and performances, locations, and period issues. With an average length of barely three minutes, the individual “Points” tend to be superficial, but they add up to a decent whole. While I’d prefer a single comprehensive documentary, the collective “Points” give us a nice enough look at the project.
Two more featurettes follow. Then and Now Locations goes for eight minutes, three seconds and involves text and photos. If you already sat through the “Gangland Files”, these will look familiar, as they all appear during that feature. They’re interesting but redundant.
Tough Guys with Style lasts four minutes, 54 seconds and offers remarks from Brolin, Stone, Gosling, Fleischer, Mackie, Lin, McCormick, Nolte, and Zophres. “Guys” offers a quick look at cast, characters and design. It’s pretty superficial and doesn’t really give us much we don’t get elsewhere.
Next we find a documentary called Rogues Gallery: Mickey Cohen. It goes for 46 minutes, 44 seconds and gives us details from John O’Mara, Cohen’s friend Jim Smith, crime historian James Johnston, film/TV producer Sid Luft, former reporter Norman Jacoby, journalist Pete Noyes, and former boxer Art Aragon. We also see some archival footage of Cohen himself as well.
We get a basic biography of Cohen along with a picture of crime in LA circa the 1930s/1940s and Cohen’s role in those endeavors. The show moves briskly and provides an entertaining look at the life of the movie’s main baddie. It’s a nice little history.
After a 19-second introduction from Fleischer, seven Deleted Scenes fill a total of 12 minutes, one second. Like most cut sequences, these largely benefit the secondary characters. We find a bit more exposition and some added backstory for a few of the participants.
We also see more of the main roles, too. We get additional shots of Jerry and Grace, and there’s a confrontation between Cohen and the Squad. We find a prologue to the movie’s violent opening sequence as well.
It’s too bad Fleischer doesn’t offer commentary about the deleted scenes, for I’d like to know more about why he cut them. On their own, some of them are actually interesting. The Jerry/Grace pieces feel tedious, but the others bring some useful notes.
The disc opens with an ad for The Great Gatsby. No trailer for Squad appears here.
A second disc offers a DVD copy of Squad. It provides one extra: the “Tough Guys With Style” featurette. That’s all that appears on the retail Squad DVD, so this one replicates that product.
With an excellent cast and an interesting premise, Gangster Squad boasted much potential – and it occasionally satisfies. However, it’s an inconsistent film that only sporadically involves the viewer, and it peters out as it goes. The Blu-ray brings up very good picture, audio and supplements. This is a strong release but the movie itself remains spotty.