Gangster Squad (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ruben Fleischer|
|Written by||Will Beall|
|Based on||Gangster Squad|
by Paul Lieberman
|Music by||Steve Jablonsky|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$105.2 million|
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, 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. 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.
- 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 have 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. Mickey is a ruthless sadist. He will grow his empire at any cost, killing anyone who fails him or opposes him.
- Nick Nolte as Chief Bill Parker
- 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.
- Anthony Mackie as Lieutenant Coleman Harris
- Giovanni Ribisi as Officer Conwell Keeler
- Robert Patrick as Officer Max Kennard
- Michael Peña as Officer Navidad Ramirez
- Mireille Enos as Connie O'Mara
- Troy Garity as One-Eyed Assassin - Wrevock
- Holt McCallany as Karl Lennox
- Sullivan Stapleton as Jack Whalen
- James Carpinello as Johnny Stompanato
- James Hébert as Mitch Racine
- Evan Jones as Neddy Herbert
- Josh Pence as Officer Daryl Gates
- John Aylward as Judge Carter
- Jack Conley as Sheriff Biscailuz
- Jack McGee as Lt. Quincannon
- Jon Polito as Jack Dragna
- Wade Williams as Rourke
- Ambyr Childers as Milk skinned blonde
- Mick Betancourt as Detective Sgt. Will Hendricks
- Mac Brandt as Bruiser
- Brandon Molale as Jimmy 'Bockscar' Knox
- Michael Papajohn as Mike 'The Flea'
- Jeff Wolfe as Giovanni Vacarezza
- Anthony Molinari as Lorenzo Molinari
- Austin Highsmith as Patty
- Neil Koppel as Max Solomon
- Austin Abrams as Pete
- Lucy Davenport as Slapsy Maxie's singer
- Dennis Cockrum as Elmer Jackson
- Haley Strode as Keeler's wife, Maria
- Maxwell Perry Cotton as Keeler's son, Charlie
- Frank Grillo as Jimmy Reagan
- Lucy Walsh as Manicurist
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 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 net budget of $60 million.
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." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 40 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore 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.
- 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.
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