Gangster Squad (film)

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Gangster Squad
Gangster Squad Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRuben Fleischer
Produced by
  • Dan Lin
  • Kevin McCormick
  • Michael Tadross
Written byWill Beall
Based onGangster Squad
by Paul Lieberman
Music bySteve Jablonsky
CinematographyDion Beebe
Edited by
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
Running time
113 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$60–75 million[2][3]
Box office$105.2 million[3]

Gangster Squad is a 2013 American action crime thriller film directed by Ruben Fleischer, written by Will Beall and starring Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick, Michael Peña and Sean Penn. Set in 1949, 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.

The film was originally set to be released September 7, 2012,[4] but in the wake of the 2012 Aurora shooting, the film was pushed back to a January 11, 2013 release date by Warner Bros. in order to accommodate reshoots.[5] It received mixed reviews and grossed $105 million worldwide.


In 1949 Los Angeles, Mafia gangster Mickey Cohen 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 LAPD has not been able to stop Cohen's ruthless rise, as he has eliminated witnesses and bribed both the court and the police.

Determined to put a stop to Cohen, LAPD Chief Bill Parker creates a secret police unit with the sole mission of bringing Cohen to justice. Parker puts a trusted friend, Sgt. John O'Mara, in charge of secretly building the unit. With the help of his wife, Connie, he recruits Sgt. Jerry Wooters and four un-corruptible misfit officers – black Lieutenant Coleman Harris, electronics expert and family man Conwell Keeler, sharpshooter Max Kennard and his Hispanic protégé Navidad Ramirez. Calling themselves the "Gangster Squad", they begin the task of destroying Cohen's operations.

The Squad's plans go well, striking several successful blows at the heart of Cohen's criminal organization, even shutting down his ultra-lucrative wire gambling business. Cohen, not knowing the Squad is LAPD, believes someone has betrayed him to rivals and strikes out at those around him, including his girlfriend Grace Faraday. Wooters has also been seeing Faraday and tries to help her escape from Cohen, enlisting the help of mutual friend Jack Whalen.

Realizing the attackers have never stolen his money, Cohen deduces they are cops and will have bugged his house. He uses it to lure the Squad into a trap in Chinatown, while Keeler is killed at the Squads' operation base. When Faraday later witnesses Cohen murder Whalen, she agrees to testify against Cohen. O'Mara forces a crooked judge to do his duty and sign an arrest warrant. The Squad then goes over to the Park Plaza Hotel to arrest Cohen.

Cohen and his men engage in a gun battle with the Squad, with Wooters and Kennard being wounded in the process. Cohen and bodyguard Karl Lennox escape, but O'Mara rams their vehicle into a fountain. Navidad helps a dying Kennard shoot Lennox, who was about to shoot O'Mara. Cohen and O'Mara fight each other in a brutal bare-knuckle fight, while a crowd of onlookers and journalists gather. O'Mara finally beats Cohen and has him arrested, ending his spread of the mafia into the Los Angeles area. The Gangster Squad is never mentioned for their role, and their surviving members remain a secret. Cohen is sentenced to life imprisonment, and is greeted with a beating by inmates who were friends of Jack Whalen. Wooters and Faraday get married, and O'Mara quits his job with the LAPD to live a quiet life with his wife and son.




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.[12] Filming wrapped on December 15, 2011.[13]

Association with the 2012 Aurora shooting[edit]

The first trailer for Gangster Squad was released on May 9, 2012.[14] 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.[15][16]

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.[4] 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.[5] 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 scene was cut and admitted that this new version is just as violent.[17][18][19]


Box office[edit]

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 net budget of $60 million.[3]

The film grossed $17.1 million in its opening weekend, finishing third at the box office behind Zero Dark Thirty ($24.4 million) and A Haunted House ($18.1 million).[20]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 32% based on 203 reviews, with an average rating of 5/10. The website'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."[21] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 40 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[22] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[20]

The reviewers of 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.[23] 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.[24] 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.[25]

Home media[edit]

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.[26]

Historical accuracy[edit]

The film is inspired by the real-life Gangster Squad of the LAPD, although much of the film is fabricated.[27][28]

  • The film portrays Cohen organizing the murder of his overseer Jack Dragna, whereas in reality Cohen and Dragna were equals and he died of a heart attack in 1956.
  • William Parker was only 45 years old in 1949, and not in his 70s like Nick Nolte (Parker didn't live to become 70; he died at age 61), and was not the one who created the Gangster Squad. The Squad was created by Chief Clemence B. Horrall in 1946, and was in an effort to save the image of the city, not the actual city itself.
  • 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.
  • While Anthony Mackie and Michael Peña are members of the Squad in the film, the real life group had no African-American or Hispanics as part of it.
  • 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 character Max Kennard was based on real life lawman Doug (Jumbo) Kennard was killed in a 1952 drunk 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.


  1. ^ "GANGSTER SQUAD (15)". British Board of Film Classification. November 13, 2012. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  2. ^ FilmL.A. (March 1, 2014). "2013 Feature Film Study" (PDF). Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Gangster Squad (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Franich, Darren. "'Gangster Squad: Warner Bros. pushing back release date". Retrieved September 14, 2012.
  5. ^ a b "GANGSTER SQUAD". Retrieved September 14, 2012.
  6. ^ a b c Vestal, Shannon (April 21, 2011). "Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, and Josh Brolin Join the Gangster Squad". Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  7. ^ Fleming, Mike (August 29, 2011). "Nick Nolte Joins 'Gangster Squad'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  8. ^ Sneider, Jeff (July 26, 2011). "Emma Stone in talks to join Gangster Squad". Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  9. ^ Fischer, Russ (June 10, 2011). "Anthony Mackie Joins 'Gangster Squad'". /Film. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  10. ^ "Giovanni Ribisi Joins Warner Bros' 'The Gangster Squad'". Deadline Hollywood. July 6, 2011. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  11. ^ L. Weinstein, Joshua (June 7, 2011). "Michael Pena Joining Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin in 'Gangster Squad'". Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  12. ^ Gallagher, Brian (September 6, 2011). "The Gangster Squad Begins Production in Los Angeles". Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  13. ^ Fleischer, Ruben (December 15, 2011). "Day 71 - That's a Wrap!!!".
  14. ^ Vespe, Eric (May 9, 2012). "Growling Nick Nolte? Check. Foxy Emma Stone? Check. Tommy Gun Movie Theater shoot out? Check! Gangster Squad trailer hits!". Retrieved May 18, 2012.
  15. ^ Finke, Nikki. "Warner Bros Pulls Trailer Of Gangster Shooting Up Movie Theater". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  16. ^ Macatee, Rebecca (July 20, 2012). "Gangster Squad Trailer Yanked From Internet, Dark Knight Rises Following Colorado Shooting". E! Online. Retrieved July 21, 2012.
  17. ^ Makinen, Julie (July 25, 2012). "Warner Bros. moves 'Gangster Squad' to 2013 after shooting". Retrieved September 14, 2012.
  18. ^ "Warner Bros. postpones 'Gangster Squad' movie after shooting". July 27, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
  19. ^ The Associated Press (July 26, 2012). "'Gangster Squad' release date pushed back to January after film draws comparisons to 'Dark Knight Rises' shooting in Aurora". NY Daily News. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
  20. ^ a b Nikki Finke (January 13, 2013). "#1 'Zero Dark Thirty' Widens For $24M, 'Haunted House' Beats Disappointing 'Gangster Squad' For #2; 'Silver Linings', 'Lincoln', 'Life Of Pi' Get Oscar Bumps". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
  21. ^ "Gangster Squad (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 13, 2018.
  22. ^ "Gangster Squad reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  23. ^ "Gangster Squad - Audio Review". Archived from the original on January 27, 2013. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  24. ^ Tilly, Chris (January 9, 2013). "Gangster Squad Review". IGN.
  25. ^ Jeff Shannon (January 9, 2013). "Gangster Squad".
  26. ^ "'Gangster Squad' Blu-ray Announced and Detailed". High-Def Digest. March 8, 2013. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
  27. ^ "Gangster Squad: History on Film". Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  28. ^ Andrew O’Hehir. "Gangster Squad" whitewashes the LAPD's criminal past". Salon. Retrieved February 18, 2019.

External links[edit]