...otherwise known as Mulholland Falls? Or maybe The Untouchables? I dunno, it's all mixed up. Let's start with Mulholland Falls.
Lessee, you got yer organized crime boss who comes West to Los Angeles at mid-century:
You got yer Nick Nolte:
You got yer Nick Nolte lookalike:
You got yer smoke-exhaling gal in a bar:
You got yer stunning young girl...
...who's mixed up with a bad element...
...and who then gets mixed up with a cop:
And of course, you got yer squad of cops who answer to nobody...
...and don't mind killing to keep the peace:
"Jesus Christ, Allison, call the cops!"
"I am the cops, Kenny."
"You can't shoot me. You're a cop."
Of course, that theme - that the upholders of justice must themselves be unjust - a theme which gets spelled out quite literally in the trailer...
...is also a central theme in Mulholland Falls. BUT, in Mulholland Falls, the head of the squad gets brought up against the consequences of such a policy when an even bigger squad with the same policy (the US Government) winds up killing the girl he loves. Here, it looks like it's just the way things are - a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, etc. Compare the deadpan tone that Ryan Gosling uses before executing a bad guy with the dialogue laid over the same shot (looking up, gun in foreground) in the trailer for The Untouchables:
"I have forsworn myself, I have broken every law I swore to defend. I have become what I beheld and I am content that I have done right."
Yes, Costner's Eliot Ness is justifying his own lawbreaking, but he's acknowledging the cost: "I have become what I beheld." What he beheld was a monster: Al Capone, a man willing to kill to get his way. Just like the bad guy in Gangster Squad.
"I want you to find this Nancy Boy Eliot Ness; I want him dead! I want his family dead! I want his house burnt to the ground!"
"Find these bastards. Kill their families, their kids!"
Righty-o. "I have become what I beheld." Ness has become Capone. The hero has become the villain. A little bit chilling, no? Especially in light of Zero Dark Thirty (opening Friday!), a film which features Americans who are willing to torture untried, unconvicted prisoners in order to find out what they want to know. I'm looking forward to seeing if Gangster Squad takes up the issue.