Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ruben Fleischer|
|Produced by||Bruce Berman
|Screenplay by||Will Beall|
|Based on||Tales from the Gangster Squad
by Paul Lieberman
|Music by||Steve Jablonsky|
|Editing by||Alan Baumgarten
|Studio||Village Roadshow Pictures
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Running time||113 minutes|
|Budget||$60 million |
Gangster Squad is a 2013 American action crime film directed by Ruben Fleischer, from a screenplay written by Will Beall. It starred an ensemble cast that included Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Sean Penn, Michael Peña, and Giovanni Ribisi.
The film is loosely based on the story of Los Angeles Police Department officers and detectives forming a group called the "Gangster Squad unit" who attempt to keep the city safe from Mickey Cohen and his gang during the 1940s and '50s. It was originally set to be released September 7, 2012, but in the wake of the 2012 Aurora shooting, the release date was changed to January 11, 2013 by Warner Bros. Pictures.
In 1949 post-WWII Los Angeles, gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) has become the most powerful figure in the California criminal underworld, and intends to continue to expand his criminal enterprise across the Western United States, forcing out his rivals in Chicago. The police have not been able to stop Cohen's ruthless rise, as Cohen has eliminated witnesses and bribed both the courts and the police, controlling both illegal and legal sides of L.A.
After saving a young girl from Cohen's thugs, Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) is personally selected by Chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte) due to O'Mara's special operations background and training at Camp X during World War II to wage guerilla warfare on Cohen, dismantling his crime empire and forcing him out of Los Angeles. With the help of his reluctant and pregnant wife, Connie (Mireille Enos), O'Mara recruits fellow officers in his squad. Initially he is joined by hard-headed detective Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie), wire-tapper Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi), and legendary gangster-killer Max Kennard (Robert Patrick). Kennard's partner, Navidad Ramirez (Michael Peña), follows the squad and they reluctantly allow him to join. Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), O'Mara's close friend, turns down the offer, as he is disillusioned from the war and his time on the police force.
Wooters has been keeping close to his old friend Jack Whalen (Sullivan Stapleton), who is his informant from within Cohen's operations. After meeting for drinks, Wooters becomes infatuated with Cohen's etiquette coach and girlfriend Grace Faraday (Emma Stone). Wooters and Grace begin a secret romantic relationship. After Cohen orders a hit on rival Jack Dragna (Jon Polito) that results in the death of Pete (Austin Adams), an innocent boy Wooters knew, Wooters becomes motivated to take down Cohen. He saves O'Mara's squad after an unsuccessful hit on one of Cohen's casinos, and later joins them.
With organization and better planning the unit strikes several successful blows at the heart of Cohen's criminal organization. The media refers to them as "The Gangster Squad". After wire-tapping Cohen's house, Keeler deduces the central location of Cohen's wire gambling business, the heart of his empire. The squad successfully burns down the business, but Cohen's men inform him that they didn't take any of his money. Cohen believes they are a group of honest cops, and believes someone ratted him out and tapped his house. As his men sweep the house for bugs, Grace runs away, fearing Cohen knows of her relationship with Wooters.
The Gangster Squad is lured into a trap in Los Angeles' Chinatown by Cohen's head hitman Wrevock (Troy Garity), who was also responsible for Pete's death. Wooters interrupts the ambush just in time to save O'Mara, but Wrevock escapes. Karl Lennox (Holt McCallany), Cohen's right-hand man, kills Keeler in the unit's operation. Wooters asks Whalen to get Grace out of town, but Cohen reaches him first, looking for Grace, and kills him. O'Mara's house is later hit by a drive-by, and Connie gives birth to their son under the stress. Chief Parker tells O'Mara, as a result of their failure, that their careers with the LAPD are over. O'Mara gets Connie out of town, but refuses to leave with the job unfinished. Grace tells Wooters she is willing to testify against Cohen for Whalen's murder, prompting O'Mara, along with the remaining members of his unit, to go to the Park Plaza Hotel to arrest Cohen.
Cohen and his men engage in a firefight with the police unit, with Wooters being wounded in the process after killing Wrevock. Cohen and Lennox escape, but O'Mara pursues them, which results in their vehicle crashing into a fountain. Kennard gets shot by Lennox, but manages to kill him with help from Navidad, before dying from his wounds. O'Mara prepares to arrest Cohen, but Cohen tempts him into fighting each other in a bare-knuckle boxing match, while a crowd of onlookers and journalists gather. O'Mara finally beats Cohen and has him arrested, ending his reign as a crime boss and the spread of the mafia into the Los Angeles area. The Gangster Squad was never mentioned in taking down Cohen, their surviving members remaining a secret. Cohen is sentenced to 25 to life at Alcatraz, and is welcomed violently by Whalen's friends. Grace and Wooters continue their relationship, while Navidad and Harris become partners on the force. O'Mara quits to live a quiet life with his wife and son.
- Josh Brolin as Sergeant John O'Mara. O'Mara is an Irish-American WWII veteran. He is an honest, hardworking, no-nonsense man. He is a decorated war hero having earned the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts. He is believed to have been a part of the OSS as his Army record is partially classified. He is the leader of the Gangster Squad.
- Ryan Gosling as Sergeant Jerry Wooters. Wooters is an easy going playboy, who is initially skeptical of O'Mara's high-intensity work. He too is a WWII veteran, serving as an aviator in the Pacific Theatre.
- Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen. Mickey is a ruthless sadist who will grow his empire at any cost. He grew up on the East Coast, where his intense energy made him a name in boxing.
- Emma Stone as Grace Faraday. Faraday is Cohen's social etiquette teacher and quasi-lover.
- Nick Nolte as Chief Bill Parker. Chief Parker is a straight laced honest man, who hates Cohen and commissions the Gangster Squad.
- Anthony Mackie as Officer Coleman Harris. He is a good expert shooter and has a speciality in knives.
- Mireille Enos as Connie O'Mara. John's pregnant wife.
- Giovanni Ribisi as Officer Conwell Keeler. The brain of the Gangster Squad, Keeler served in Army Intelligence in WWII. He has a wife and son.
- Michael Peña as Officer Navidad Ramirez. A Mexican-American. The squad reluctantly accepts him as a member after he managed to find their secret meeting location. He is aware of the squad's existence because he was Kennard's partner before the squad was formed. He is young and looks up to the much older Kennard, who he learns a lot from.
- Robert Patrick as Officer Max Kennard. Kennard is a laid back quick shot gunslinger in his late fifties. He has a reputation of being the cowboy who has killed over 100 gangsters.
- Sullivan Stapleton as Jack Whalen. Jack is an informant within Cohen's operations. He is also close friends with Wooters. He is soft spoken and keeps to himself.
- Holt McCallany as Karl Lennox, Cohen's Right-hand man
- Josh Pence as Daryl Gates
- Austin Abrams as Pete. A young teenage boy who is friends with Wooters. He works on the streets offering shoe shines for 10 cents. He looks up to Wooters who often employs his services and gives him advice about girls.
- Jon Polito as Jack Dragna. Cohen's main rival.
- James Hébert as Mitch Racine
- John Aylward as Judge Carter. Carter is a city judge who protects Cohen legally, Cohen repays the judge back in the form of whores.
- Troy Garity as Wrevock, Cohen's personal hitman
- James Carpinello as Johnny Stompanato, Cohen's bodyguard
- Frank Grillo as Russo
Principal photography began on September 6, 2011 in Los Angeles. Sets were located all over L.A. County from north of the San Fernando Valley to south of the county border. Sets were also recreated in Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City. Filming wrapped on December 15, 2011.
The first trailer for Gangster Squad was released on May 9, 2012. In the wake of the mass shooting at a theater in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, the trailer was pulled from running before films and airing on television, and removed from Apple's trailer site and YouTube due to a scene in which characters shoot submachine guns at moviegoers through the screen of Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
It was later reported that the theater scene from the film would be either removed or placed in a different setting, since it is a crucial part of the film, and the film would undergo additional re-shoots of several scenes to accommodate these changes, which resulted in the release of Gangster Squad being moved back to a later date. About a week after the shootings in Aurora, Warner officially confirmed that the film would be released on January 11, 2013, bumped from the original September 7, 2012 release date. Two weeks later, on August 22, the cast reunited in Los Angeles to completely re-shoot the main action sequence of the film. The new scene was set in Chinatown where the Gangster Squad comes into open conflict with the gangsters as they strike back. Josh Brolin said he was not sad the original 'movie theatre' scene was cut, and admitted that this new version is just as violent.
Home media 
The film received generally negative reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 32% based on reviews from 180 critics, with the site's consensus stating: "Though it's stylish and features a talented cast, Gangster Squad suffers from lackluster writing, underdeveloped characters and an excessive amount of violence". Another review aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 40% based on 30 reviews, or "Mixed or Average review."
The reviewers of Spill.com gave it a "Rental," praising the stylish approach but criticizing the dialogue, Emma Stone's under-developed "damsel-in-distress" character, and Sean Penn's laughable makeup. Cyrus suggests that the romantic subplot between Sergeant Jerry Wooters and Grace Faraday is "a story you would care nothing about if it wasn't Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone". IGN editor Chris Tilly wrote "Gangster Squad looks great but frustrates because with the talent involved, it had the potential to be so much more." Thus rating the film 6.3 out of 10.
Writing for Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, Jeff Shannon gives the film 2 stars out of 4. He believes that director Fleischer, better known for his comedic work, is out of his element, and barely suppressing his urge to spoof the genre. He notes that Stone and Gosling had chemistry in Crazy, Stupid, Love but that here it "curdles into lukewarm mush". He further criticizes the stock characters, and the generally uneven tone of the film, but praises the action highlights such as the car chase, and occasional flashes of brilliance in the performance of Sean Penn. In conclusion he describes Christian Slater's 1991 film Mobsters as still a marginally better film than Gangster Squad.
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a "C" and wrote, "When Penn is on screen, Gangster Squad is far from great, but it does crackle with a certain gutter fascination. The trouble is that the director, Ruben Fleischer (the music-video veteran who made Zombieland), lures us into wanting to see a thriller that runs on intrigue, but O'Mara and his team of cops never come up with a devious or even very coherent plan. They beat the hell out of folks, bomb storefronts, and race through the boulevards in their cool '40s cars. And the movie, as criminal drama, goes nowhere."
Depictions of reality 
The film purports to be inspired by a true story, though much of the story is fabricated. For example, the film portrays Cohen organising the murder of opponent Jack Dragna, where as in reality Dragna died of old age. William Parker is portrayed as a no-nonsense christian in the film, whereas in reality he was far more controversial. The film concludes with Cohen being arrested in 1949 for murder and sent to Alcatraz. In reality, he was imprisoned in 1951 and again in 1961 for tax evasion. He was however, attacked with a lead pipe while in prison.
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- "Wikipedia - Mickey Cohen in popular culture".
- Official website
- Gangster Squad at the Internet Movie Database
- Gangster Squad at AllRovi
- Gangster Squad at Rotten Tomatoes
- Gangster Squad at Box Office Mojo