Varese Sarabande VSD-7178
21 Tracks - Disc Time: 56:08 Grade: B+
Gangster Squad is the highly anticipated all-star 1940's crime drama starring Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Robert Patrick and Nick Nolte. The based on the novel by Paul Liberman, centers on a power hungry and infamous mobster Mickey Cohen (Penn) who's relentless quest to take over the city of Los Angeles hits a major snag when Police Chief Parker (Nolte) assigns gung-ho Sgt. John O' Mara (Brolin) of getting rid of Cohen and his mobster friends out of the city of Angels. O'Mara forms the "Gangster Squad", a group of of LAPD's most unorthodox officers (Gosling, Patrick, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena and Giovanni Ribisi) on a relentless manhunt throughout the city battling Cohen's goons till they get to the big man himself. However, the squad does encounter it's own personal problems that may or may not affect the outcome of their quest for despensing the proper law & order against this massive crime element.
With some bad buzz about the film not living up to its potential according to most critics so far, the film has received positive buzz about the films' visuals by cinematographer Dion Beebe and the lavish production design by Maher Ahmad. Another positive thing, surprisingly I might have to add is the score by Steve Jablonsky, that really does pack a positive punch and is full of solid action. The score is moody, very energetic and does have a bit of a Hans Zimmer influence at times which is a good thing when its done right. The best things about the score is that Jablonsky smartly created two principal themes one for Mickey Cohen, which features an intense ticking time bomb like motif for strings, percussion and synthesizers introduced the the albums' opening track "His Name Is Mickey Cohen", that clearly signals both menace and foreboding and the other theme is that for the "Gangster Squad" themselves introduced in "Welcome To Los Angeles", which features a cool guitar solo by George Doering, backed with a saxophone solo by Dan Higgins and is aggressive in nature which plays off the Cohen motif quite nicely in my view which has a hint of Thomas Newman's style in there as well as Jablonsky's percussive sound.
The majority of the score supports the war between the mobsters and the "Gangster Squad" to which Jablonsky alternates between his cool material for the squad and the Cohen theme. "Kill Em' All" and "You Know The Drill" are reinforcements of this darker material while "You Can't Shoot Me" is a harsh sounding track that sounds like one of Hans Zimmer's power anthems in scope while the score gets really aggressive with one of my favorite tracks "Hot Potato With A Grenade" which is just relentless with all out action that's also backed up with power and gusto in "Light Em' Up" that is a lengthy rhythmic exercise brimming with shameless energy reinforcing its power. In between the moments of darkness and relentless action, Jablonsky does provide some more personal, lush material in both "I Was Just Hopin' To Take You To Bed" and "Let's Finish It", are very lush in nature but also have a quiet angst to them orchestrially giving the score a real balance as it shifts from dark to light back and fourth for a bit through the albums' fifty-six minutes which are well produced.
I honestly didn't know what to expect from this score after hearing Jablonsky's major league disaster, Battleship which was easily the worst score I heard last year to a redemption such as this one is a major positive step after replacing original composer Carter Burwell. I'm honestly glad to see that because Jablonsky is not a bad composer and really has written excellent score in the past like Transformers and The Island. Gangster Squad may not be lighting it up with critics, but the score should excite Jablonsky's fans that's for sure. Jablonsky redeemed and recommended.