Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ruben Fleischer|
|Screenplay by||Will Beall|
|Based on||Tales from the Gangster Squad
by Paul Lieberman
|Music by||Steve Jablonsky|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$105.2 million|
The plot is a fictionalized account of the LAPD officers and detectives called the "Gangster Squad" who attempt to keep Los Angeles safe from Mickey Cohen and his gang during the 1940s and '50s. The film was originally set to be released September 7, 2012, but in the wake of the 2012 Aurora shooting, the film was pushed back to a January 11, 2013 release date by Warner Bros. Pictures.
In 1948, 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 to Chicago and New York City. The police have not been able to stop Cohen's ruthless rise, as Cohen has eliminated witnesses and bribed both the court and the police, controlling both illegal and legal sides of L.A.
Determined to put a stop to Cohen, Chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte), the head of the Los Angeles Police Department, creates a secret police unit with the sole mission of stopping Cohen and bringing him to justice. Respected L.A police officer and Parker's old friend, Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) is placed in charge of recruiting additional officers. With the help of his wife, Connie (Mireille Enos), he recruits Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) and detectives Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie), Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi), Navidad Ramirez (Michael Peña) and Max Kennard (Robert Patrick). Calling themselves the "Gangster Squad", the unit begins the task of destroying Cohen's criminal operations. In the story Johns wife Connie is pregnant and as the operation is near the end, John and Connies house is fired at many times when Connie is in there. When he returns home he goes into the bathroom seeing blood everywhere to find that she has given birth. Soon after, she leaves with her baby son because of the violent area and because her husband isn't giving up his job to settle down. The unit's plans go well, and the unit strikes several successful blows at the heart of Cohen's criminal organization and manages to shut down a very lucrative wire gambling business. Cohen believes someone has betrayed him and strikes out at those around him, including his girlfriend Grace Faraday (Emma Stone). Wooters has also been romancing Faraday and tries to help her escape from Cohen. Cohen discovers that the police unit bugged his house, and is able to lure the police unit into a trap in Los Angeles' Chinatown while Keeler is killed at the unit's operation. Faraday later witnesses Cohen murder Wooters' friend, Jack Whalen (Sullivan Stapleton), who was helping her escape. With Faraday willing to testify against Cohen, O'Mara, along with the remaining members of his unit, blackmails a crooked bribed judge to sign an arrest warrant for Cohen, then goes to the Park Plaza Hotel to arrest him.
Cohen and his men engage in a gun battle with the police unit, with Wooters being wounded in the process. Cohen and his bodyguard Karl Lennox (Holt McCallany) escape, but O'Mara pursues them, which results in their vehicle crashing into a fountain. Kennard manages to kill Lennox before he can shoot O'Mara. Cohen and O'Mara fight each other in a bare-knuckle boxing fight, 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.
- Josh Brolin as Sergeant John O'Mara. O'Mara is a World War II veteran. He is honest, hardworking, and a no nonsense man. He is a decorated war hero having earned the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts. He is believed to been a part of the OSS as his Army record is partially classified.
- Ryan Gosling as Sergeant Jerry Wooters. Wooters is an easy going playboy. He is a cop who enjoys his job and stays in his lane. He too is a World War II veteran having served in the Pacific.
- Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen. The main antagonist of the film, Mikey is a ruthless sadist. He will grow his empire at any cost. Killing anyone who fails hims or opposes him.
- Emma Stone as Grace Faraday. Faraday is Cohen's social etiquette teacher and quasi lover. She is soft-spoken but has a heart for Wooters over Cohen.
- Nick Nolte as Chief Bill Parker
- Anthony Mackie as Detective Coleman Harris
- Giovanni Ribisi as Detective Conwell Keeler
- Michael Peña as Detective Navidad Ramirez
- Robert Patrick as Detective Max Kennard
- Mireille Enos as Connie O'Mara
- Holt McCallany as Karl Lennox
- Josh Pence as Daryl Gates
- Frank Grillo as Jimmy Reagan
- James Hébert as Mitch Racine
- Haley Strode as Marcia Keeler
- Sullivan Stapleton as Jack Whalen
- Maxwell Perry Cotton as Charlie
- Lucy Walsh as Manicurist
- Troy Garity as One-Eyed Assassin
- James Carpinello as Johnny Stompanato
- Jon Polito as Jack Dragna
- Wade Williams as Rourke
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.
Association with the 2012 Aurora shooting
The first trailer for Gangster Squad was released on May 9, 2012. In the wake of the theater shooting 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. Just 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 placed in a version of Chinatown where the Gangster Squad comes into open conflict with the gangsters as they strike back at the Gangster Squad. Josh Brolin said he was not sad the original 'movie theatre' scene was cut, and admitted that this new version is just as violent.
Gangster Squad grossed $46 million in North America and $59.2 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $105.2 million, against a budget of $60 million.
Gangster Squad received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 31%, based on 197 reviews, with an average rating of 5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Though it's stylish and features a talented cast, Gangster Squad suffers from lackluster writing, underdeveloped characters and an excessive amount of violence". On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, gave the film a score of 40 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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 is inspired by the real-life Gangster Squad of the LAPD, although much of the film 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 to become 70; 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.
- 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 as mentioned.
- 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 killed 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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