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.|
|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 Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, and Sean Penn.
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. While the film, characters, and 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.
Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detective John "Sarge" O'Mara (Josh Brolin) busts into a Cohen brothel to save a woman, newly arrived to Hollywood, from Cohen's thugs. Chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte), impressed that O'Mara had knowingly raided a Cohen operation – and aware that O'Mara has special operations background and training at Camp X during World War II – tasks O'Mara to wage guerrilla warfare against Cohen, and appoints him to choose a small team that must work in anonymity, with no badges and no LAPD support.
O'Mara's pregnant wife Connie (Mireille Enos) suggests choosing unorthodox veterans like himself, as young high-performers are probably already on Cohen's payroll. With Connie helping him to review personnel files, O'Mara selects a small squad of cops: Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie) is a black cop who wants to cut off the heroin flow to Central Avenue, wiretapper and family man Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi) wants his son to know that he fought to make a difference, old timer and gunslinger/sharpshooter Max Kennard (Robert Patrick) and his young Hispanic partner Navidad "Christmas" Ramirez (Michael Peña) do not fit in well with the regular force and want in.
O'Mara fails in an attempt to recruit Sgt Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), a detective who prefers to do the minimum in his daily job. Wooters keeps in touch with childhood friend Jack Whalen (Sullivan Stapleton), an informant with some connections to Cohen. Grace Faraday (Emma Stone) is Cohen's etiquette coach and girlfriend. Wooters and Grace begin a secret romantic relationship, protected by a reluctant Whalen.
The squad raids an illegal Cohen casino in Burbank, but are confronted by corrupt Burbank cops. O'Mara and Harris are captured and held in the Burbank jail for pickup by Cohen's gang. When Wooters witnesses a young friend/shoeshine boy named Pete (Austin Abrams) gunned down when Cohen's hitman Wrevock (Troy Garity) botches an attack on boss Dragna (Jon Polito), he decides to help Kennard and Ramirez to free the other two from the Burbank jail and join the squad.
With information from an illegal bug that they place in Cohen's house, the squad makes several successful blows at the heart of Cohen's criminal organization. The media refers to them as "The Gangster Squad". Keeler's expertise allows the squad to deduce the location of Cohen's significant 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 finally realizes that they must be a group of honest cops, rather than thugs from mob boss Dragna trying to takeover his business. Cohen believes someone betrayed him and wired his house, causing Grace to run away fearing Cohen might know of her relationship with Wooters.
Feeding false information to the bug in his house, Cohen is able to lure the Gangster Squad into a trap in Chinatown. Wooters takes Grace to Whalen to get her out of town, and learns about the ambush—he rushes to Chinatown just in time to alert the rest of the squad.
While the Chinatown ambush is being thwarted, Cohen is hitting a number of other locations. Cohen's bodyguard Johnny Stompanato (James Carpinello) has found Keeler's listening post and kills him. Cohen arrives at Whalen's looking for Grace (who hides and watches), and kills him. O'Mara's house is hit by a drive-by, and Connie gives birth to their son under the stress.
Grace tells Wooters she is willing to testify against Cohen regarding Whalen's murder, prompting O'Mara and the surviving squad members to arrest Cohen at his heavily guarded Park Plaza Hotel. A long firefight breaks out, with Wooters being wounded in the process of killing Wrevock. O'Mara pursues Cohen and Stompanato down the block, where Stompanato gets the jump and is about to kill O'Mara. An injured Kennard, with his dying breath, manages to sharpshoot Stompanato from a block away, saving O'Mara. O'Mara and former prize-fighter Cohen come to fisticuffs. As a crowd of onlookers and journalists gather, O'Mara defeats Cohen and has him arrested.
As they'd been told, 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 stay on and become partners on the beat. O'Mara quits to live a quiet life in Los Angeles with Connie and their 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 expert in guns and 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 manages to find their secret meeting location. He is aware of the squad's existence because of his history as Kennard's partner. He is young and looks up to the much older Kennard.
- 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
- Jonny Coyne as Grimes
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 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 generally negative reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 32% based on reviews from 191 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 38 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.
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 organizing the murder of opponent Jack Dragna, whereas in reality Dragna died of a heart attack. William Parker is portrayed as a no-nonsense Christian in the film, whereas in reality he was far more controversial.[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.
- "GANGSTER SQUAD". WarnerBros.com. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
- "GANGSTER SQUAD (15)". British Board of Film Classification. November 13, 2012. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
- Sneider, Jeff (July 26, 2011). "Emma Stone rounds up ‘Gangster Squad’". Variety. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
- "Gangster Squad (2013)". Box Office Mojo. January 11, 2013. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
- Frappier, Rob. "'Zombieland' Director Tapped for Crime Drama 'The Gangster Squad'". Screen Rant. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
- Franich, Darren. "'Gangster Squad: Warner Bros. pushing back release date". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
- "PHOTOS: The real-life 'Gangster Squad' and mobster Mickey Cohen". Scpr.org. January 10, 2013. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- Gallagher, Brian (September 6, 2011). "The Gangster Squad Begins Production in Los Angeles". MovieWeb.com. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
- Fleischer, Ruben (December 15, 2011). "Day 71 - That's a Wrap!!!". RubenFleischer.com.
- Vespe, Eric (May 9, 2012). "Growling Nick Nolte? Check. Foxy Emma Stone? Check. Tommy Gun Movie Theater shoot out? Check! Gangster Squad trailer hits!". AintItCool.com. Retrieved May 18, 2012.
- Finke, Nikki. "Warner Bros Pulls Trailer Of Gangster Shooting Up Movie Theater". Deadline.com. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- Macatee, Rebecca (July 20, 2012). "Gangster Squad Trailer Yanked From Internet, Dark Knight Rises Following Colorado Shooting". E!. Retrieved July 21, 2012.
- 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' Blu-ray Announced and Detailed". High-Def Digest. March 8, 2013. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
- "Gangster Squad (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
- "Gangster Squad". Metacritic. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
- "Gangster Squad - Audio Review". Spill.com. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
- Tilly, Chris (January 9, 2013). "Gangster Squad Review". IGN. Newscorp. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
- Jeff Shannon (January 9, 2013). "Gangster Squad".
- Gleiberman, Owen (January 18, 2013). "Gangster Squad". Entertainment Weekly (New York: Time Inc.): 59.
- Official website
- Gangster Squad at the Internet Movie Database
- Gangster Squad at allmovie
- Gangster Squad at Rotten Tomatoes
- Gangster Squad at Box Office Mojo
- 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