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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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Maria Goretti: One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. 
<p>She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. </p><p>On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. </p><p>She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. </p><p>Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. </p><p>Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, may the medals we wear be constant reminders of the lives they depict. While wearing them, may we be blessed through the saints’ intercession and protected from harm. Help us to continue to spread the messages of Jesus and Mary and the saints and angels.

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