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|
|Edited by||Alan Baumgarten
Village Roadshow Pictures
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures
Roadshow Entertainment (Australia & New Zealand)
|Budget||$60 million |
|Box office||$105.2 million|
Gangster Squad is a 2013 American film noir action film directed by Ruben Fleischer, from a screenplay written by Will Beall and starring Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, and Sean Penn.
The story is loosely based on the Los Angeles Police Department officers and detectives who formed a group called the "Gangster Squad unit" who attempted to combat Mickey Cohen and his gang during the 1940s and 1950s. 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. When in fact the film, the characters, and the events are mostly fictionalized, the LAPD did have a unit called the "Gangster Squad" which was created when Clemence B. Horrall was the LAPD's Chief of Police. A similar theme is the basis of a 1996 film, Mulholland Falls, and a 2013 television miniseries, Mob City.
In 1949 Los Angeles, gangster Mickey Cohen wants to control all organized crime and argues with local mobster Jack Dragna that they should not allow the East coast mafia to run the town. Meanwhile, LAPD Detective Sergeant John "Sarge" O'Mara raids a Cohen-owned brothel to save a woman from being raped, gaining the attention of Police Chief Bill Parker. Parker believes that more drastic measures need to be taken against men like Cohen, and tasks O'Mara to begin waging a guerrilla campaign against the mobsters. He tells O'Mara (a former OSS commando during World War II) to use his special operations training, learned at Camp X during World War II, and to select a small team that will work without badges or official support from the police.
O'Mara's pregnant wife Connie suggests choosing unorthodox veterans like himself, as young high-performers would likely already be on Cohen's payroll. With Connie's help, O'Mara selects a small squad of cops: street officer Lieutenant Coleman Harris, wiretap expert Conwell Keeler, gunslinger and sharpshooter Max Kennard, and Kennard's Hispanic partner Navidad "Christmas" Ramirez. O'Mara also attempts to recruit his partner Sergeant Jerry Wooters, but Wooters has become lazy and complacent in his job and refuses. Wooters keeps in touch with childhood friend Jack Whalen, who provides him with information on Cohen. Wooters also meets and begins a secret relationship with Cohen's girlfriend Grace Faraday.
The squad's first mission is to bust up an illegal Cohen casino in Burbank, California, but things quickly go bad as O'Mara and Harris are captured by corrupt Burbank police who were guarding the casino. Wooters has a change of heart after witnessing the death of a young boy he had been helping out and attempts to shoot Cohen. Whalen stops him and tells him that O'Mara is going to be turned over to Cohen, prompting Wooters to rescue the men from the Burbank jail. Deciding that they need more information on Cohen's operations, Wooters and Keeler break into Cohen's house and place an illegal wiretap inside his TV. The men are seen sneaking out by Grace, who agrees to keep their secret.
Using the information from the wiretap, the group conducts several successful raids on Cohen operations. After a particularly violent raid on a Cohen drug shipment, Keeler begins to question what they are doing but is re-assured by O'Mara. The media begins referring to the men as the "The Gangster Squad", and Cohen pushes his men to find out who they are. Keeler deduces that Cohen is building a large wire gambling business somewhere in town, and warns O'Mara that if they don't take it out before it becomes operational Cohen will become too big for even them to stop. Keeler uses wire transmissions to locate the building, and the squad wipes it out. An enraged Cohen realizes that the Gangster Squad must be honest cops when he discovers that none of his money was stolen.
Cohen suspects that his house is bugged and begins searching for the tap. Grace overhears Cohen and fears that he knows about her relationship with Wooters. With the help of a maid, Grace escapes Cohen's house and meets Wooters, who takes her to Whalen and tasks him with getting her out of town. Cohen finds the bug and begins feeding false information to Keeler. Cohen lures the Gangster Squad into a trap in Chinatown, but Wooters arrives in time to alert the men to the trap. While the men are distracted in Chinatown, Cohen hits several targets himself. Cohen's bodyguard Karl Lockwood finds Keeler's listening post and kills him while Cohen goes to Whalen's looking for Grace. Cohen murders Whalen in front of Grace, who hides from him. O'Mara's house is hit by a drive-by shooting, the stress of which causes Connie to give birth to their son in their bathtub.
Grace agrees to testify against Cohen for the murder of Whalen, and O'Mara uses her testimony to get a warrant for Cohen's arrest. The squad arrives at Cohen's hotel to arrest him and an intense firefight breaks out. Wooters and Kennard are wounded, while Cohen and Lockwood escape. O'Mara pursues them down the block, assisted by a mortally wounded Kennard and his sharpshooting skill. Kennard, with Ramirez' help, shoots Lockwood just before he dies and O'Mara and Cohen engage in a brutal fistfight that ends with O'Mara beating Cohen to his knees. As a crowd gathers, a bloodied O'Mara walks away and Cohen is arrested for Whalen's murder.
As Chief Parker had told them, the Gangster Squad is never credited in taking down Cohen. Grace's testimony ensures Cohen is sentenced to 25 to life at Alcatraz, where he is welcomed violently by Whalen's friends. Grace and Wooters stay together and he stays on the force, while Ramirez and Harris become partners on the beat. Ramirez is shown patrolling with Kennard's signature Colt Single Action Army on his hip. O'Mara quits to live a quiet life in Los Angeles with Connie and their son.
- Josh Brolin as Sergeant John O'Mara
- Ryan Gosling as Sergeant Jerry Wooters
- Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen
- Nick Nolte as Chief Bill Parker
- Emma Stone as Grace Faraday
- Anthony Mackie as Lieutenant Coleman Harris
- Giovanni Ribisi as Officer Conwell Keeler
- Michael Peña as Officer Navidad "Christmas" Ramirez
- Robert Patrick as Officer Max Kennard
- Mireille Enos as Connie O'Mara
- Sullivan Stapleton as Jack Whalen
- Holt McCallany as Karl Lockwood
- Josh Pence as Daryl Gates
- Austin Abrams as Pete
- Jon Polito as Jack Dragna
- James Hébert as Mitch Racine
- John Aylward as Judge Carter
- Troy Garity as Wrevock
- James Carpinello as Johnny Stompanato
- Frank Grillo as Tommy Russo
- Jonny Coyne as Grimes
- Jack McGee as Lieutenant Quincannon
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. The Los Angeles Union Station, the Tower Theater, the Los Angeles City Hall, Highland Park Police Station, Park Plaza Hotel, MacArthur Park and Clifton's Cafeteria were used as filming locations. Three days of production were spent in Chinatown, Los Angeles. The film was shot digitally using cameras with anamorphic lenses. 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 most theaters 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. This resulted in the release of Gangster Squad being delayed. 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.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 32%, based on 193 reviews, 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 rating based off top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 40 out of 100, based on 38 critics, or "mixed or average reviews".
Mark Kermode on his BBC Radio 5 Live show with Simon Mayo, compared Gangster Squad unfavourably with the Rockstar video game L.A Noire which he thought had better character development than Gangster Squad.
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.
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.
Richard Roeper gave the film a B+, saying “Gangster Squad is a highly stylized, pulp-fiction period piece based on true events” and noted the strong performances.
The film went on to gross $46,000,903 domestically and $59,200,000 in other countries, for a total gross of $105,200,903.
Gangster Squad was released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 23, 2013. The Blu-ray includes director's commentary from Ruben Fleischer and several segments about the real life men and stories of the Gangster Squad and Mickey Cohen.
Depictions of reality
The film purports to be inspired by a true story, though much of the story is fabricated.
- The film portrays Cohen organizing the murder of opponent Jack Dragna, whereas in reality Dragna died of a heart attack in 1956.
- William Parker is portrayed as a no-nonsense Christian in the film, whereas in reality he was far more controversial. Parker was also only 45 years old in 1949, and not in his 70s like Nolte (Parker didn't live until his 70s; he died at age 61).
- Parker was not the one who created the Gangster Squad. The Squad was created by Chief Clemence B. Horrall in 1946.[who?]
- 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.
- Slapsy Maxie's, a nightclub prominently featured in the story, was a real establishment owned by "Slapsy" Maxie Rosenbloom, a former light-heavyweight boxing champion.
- While it is possible Cohen murdered Jack Whalen in real life, it was not at Whalen's home as depicted in the film. Whalen was shot in 1959 while at dinner with Cohen and three of his associates, although Cohen was not accused or convicted of the murder himself.
- Cohen's bodyguard Johnny Stompanato was not shot like depicted in the film, but instead lived until 1958, when he was stabbed by Cheryl Crane, the daughter of his girlfriend, Lana Turner.
- The real life Max Kennard was the first of the Squad to die, however it was in a 1952 car crash after he had retired, and not shot in the line of duty like in the film.
- In the film, Conwell Keeler is the first member of the Squad to be killed. In real life, he outlived all other members of the Gangster Squad, dying of a stroke in 2012.
- John O'Mara enjoyed retirement alongside his wife Connie and their daughter (unlike the son they have in the film) until O'Mara's death in 2003 at the age of 86.
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- "PHOTOS: The real-life 'Gangster Squad' and mobster Mickey Cohen". Scpr.org. January 10, 2013. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
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- Fleischer, Ruben (December 15, 2011). "Day 71 - That's a Wrap!!!". RubenFleischer.com.
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- Makinen, Julie (July 25, 2012). "Warner Bros. moves 'Gangster Squad' to 2013 after shooting". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
- "Warner Bros. postpones 'Gangster Squad' movie after shooting". Reuters. July 27, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
- "‘Gangster Squad’ release date pushed back to January after film draws comparisons to 'Dark Knight Rises' shooting in Aurora". Daily News (New York). Associated Press. July 26, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
- "Gangster Squad (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
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- Tilly, Chris (January 9, 2013). "Gangster Squad Review". IGN. Newscorp. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
- Jeff Shannon (January 9, 2013). "Gangster Squad". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Gleiberman, Owen (January 18, 2013). "Gangster Squad". Entertainment Weekly (New York: Time Inc.): 59.
- "'Gangster Squad' Blu-ray Announced and Detailed". High-Def Digest. March 8, 2013. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
- Official website
- Gangster Squad at the Internet Movie Database
- Gangster Squad at AllMovie
- Gangster Squad at Rotten Tomatoes
- Gangster Squad at Box Office Mojo
- "Gangster Squad"
- http://www.crimeanalystblog.net/2013/01/the-real-story-of-lapds-gangster-squad.html. Retrieved June 23, 2013
- http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-gangster-sg,0,5506273.storygallery. Retrieved June 23, 2013