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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Gangster Squad

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


James Carpinello, Sean Penn and Evan Cohen star in a scene from the movie "Gangster Squad."
Early on in the stylish but excessively violent cops-and-robbers tale "Gangster Squad" (Warner Bros.), the villain of the piece—a reptilian gangster played by Sean Penn—has a rival chained to two cars which drive off in opposite directions, tearing the victim in half.

That's a fair tipoff of the mayhem to come which, taken together with the film's murky morality, makes this fact-based drama, directed by Ruben Fleischer, suitable only for the most stalwart adult viewers.

Penn's baddie, Mickey Cohen, is a Brooklyn-bred ex-boxer intent on making 1940s Los Angeles his own. Out to stop him, by any means necessary, is the metropolis' police chief, William Parker (Nick Nolte).

Parker commissions idealistic World War II veteran Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) to form the team of the title. Made up, most prominently, of slickster and fellow Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), tough African-American officer Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie) and electronics expert Conwell Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi), the squad will operate outside the law to break Cohen's power.

Along the way to a conclusive shootout that seems to reap as many casualties as a small-scale military operation, Wooters secretly romances—and straightforwardly seduces—Cohen's good-hearted moll Grace Faraday (Emma Stone).

O'Mara and company occasionally express second thoughts about their methods. But screenwriter Will Beall's script, adapted from Paul Lieberman's eponymous book, presents their illegal actions as the only practical solution open to them.

Given Cohen's ruthlessness—he eventually orders a machine-gun attack on O'Mara's home, endangering the upright sergeant's pregnant wife, Connie (Mireille Enos)—the audience is invited to react as viscerally as the characters to his seemingly unstoppable reign of terror. Moviegoers will require maturity and prudence to work through the tangled ethics of the situation—and a strong stomach to endure the wild gunplay and interludes of brutality.

The film contains a vigilantism theme, scenes of gruesome, bloody violence, a premarital situation, brief partial nudity, numerous uses of profanity and much rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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