Gangster Squad

2013 - Warner Bros.

Directed by Ruben Fleischer

Written by Will Beall

Josh Brolin Sgt John O'Mara

Ryan Gosling Sgt Jerry Wooters

Sean Penn Micky Cohen

Emma Stone Grace Faraday

Nick Nolte Chief Bill Parker

Anthony Mackie Lt Coleman Harris

Giovanni Ribisi Officer Conwell Keeler

Michael Peña  Officer Navidad 'Christmas' Ramirez

Robert Patrick Offcier Max Kennard

Mireille Enos Connie O'Mara

Jon Polito Jack Dragna

Sullivan Stapleton Jack Wealan

Holt McCallany Karl Lennox

Josh Pence Daryl Gates

" All good things must one day be burnt to the ground for the insurance money  "

- Micky Cohen

Gangster Stats

Most Notable Gangster Moment:

Mickey Cohen surprisingly adds the Bond Villain moments - leaving the best gangster moments to the cops. My favorite of which is Sergeant Wooters standing over an already injured gangster with a shotgun pointed at him. Gangster - "You can't shoot me. You're a cop" . Wooters - "Not anymore"... bang.

 

Body Count: Fifty Nine

1. On Cohen’s orders a Chicago gangster was torn apart between two cars and left to be eaten by wolves.

2. O'Mara tangled with two of Cohen's mean in a lift and shot one of the gangsters.

3-5. Cohen ordered the death of 3 of his men by locking them in the elevator and burning them alive

6-8. Cohen’s men led by Wrevock opened fire on Dragna outside of Slapsy Maxie's. Dragna’s driver was killed, as was the Pete the shoe-shine kid and a cab driver.

9-10. When the police arrived Wrevock peppered the squad car with his Tommy Gun and looks to have killed two policemen.

11. Wooters wounded one of the gangsters with his pistol, then blew him away using the gangster’s shotgun.

12-13. Cohen’s hitmen broke into Dragna’s home and killed the maid and bodyguard.

14. Karl Lennox then shot and killed Dragna’s wife.

15. In the car chase scene Ramirez shot the driver of one of the gangster cars, killing him who subsequently crashed the car.

16. In the same car chase Kennard shot a gangster through the windshields hitting him the head.

17-20. Ramirez sideswiped the gangsters' car making them drop a hand grenade which blew up the car and all four of Cohen’s men inside.

21. On Cohen’s order (“You know the drill”) Karl Lennox killed Grimes driving a power drill into his head.

22. In the counting room at the back of Slapy Maxies O’Hara shoots one of Cohen’s men

23-26. Wooters then burnt the place down with four of Cohen’s men tired up in the basement.

27-28. From the stage in Slapsy Maxie’s Kennard shot two gangsters

29. Ramirez shot the barmen in the same scene with a shotgun

30. Wrevock blew up a truck which killed at least one civillian

31-33. Kennard shot three gangsters with his distinctive hammer fanning action on his 'Peacemaker'

34. Harris killed a gangster with a throwing knife

35. Navidad then shot down an approaching gangster 

36. Karl Lennox used his bare hands to strangle Conwell Keeler

37. Mickey Cohen finally got his hands dirty and emptied his pistol into Jack Whalen

38. O'Mara shot a gangster outside of the hotel

39. Navidad then shot a gangster in the head

40. O'Mara shot another gangster

41. Wooters shot another

42. O'Mara shot another as he and Wooters ran inside the hotel

43. O’Mara shot a gangster in the foyer of the hotel

44. Wooters blew away another gangster

45. O'Mara shot a gangster

46. Wooters shot a gangster

47. Kennard shot the machine gunner stationed on the hotel balcony

48. O'Mara shot a a gangster while lying on the stairs

49-50. Hiding behind a plant pot Wooters shot two gangsters behind his back

51. Wooters then broke his cover and killed another gangster coming down the stairs

52. O'Mara shot the other gangster coming down the stairs

53. Wooters spectacularly emptied his tommy gun into Jimmy Bockscar

54. O'Mara shot a gangster in the head just as he appeared around a corner

55. Karl Lennox shot Kennard with a M1 rifle. Kennard later died of the injury

56-58. Harris shot three gangsters in this scene

59. Navidad helped the dying Kennard to aim his gun and kill Karl Lennox who was about to plug O’Mara.

 

Weapons:

  • Sgt. Wooters carried with him a Walther PPK with pearl grips and used it several times - he also had a Colt Model 1903

  • As well as throwing knives, Lt. Coleman Harris had a Colt Detective Special

  • Navidad carried with him a Smith & Wesson Model 10

  • Kennard's personal weapon of choice was a Single Action Army pistol (Artillery model) a.k.a. Peacemaker or Frontiersman. He prefered a fanning the hammer action when firing

  • Wrevock used a Mauser C96 during the shootout in Chinatown

  • Sgt. Wooters carried a sawn off Winchester Model 12 during the raid on Slapsy Maxies

  • Wooters killed a gangster using his own Ithaca Model 37

  • M1928 Thompson Submachine guns are used widely during the movie – specifically Cohen fired one during the lobby shootout; Wrevock duel-wielded a pair during the Chinatown shootout and Cohen’s men used them during the attack on Dragna.

  • Wooters used a M1A1 Thompson in the climatic hotel lobby shootout– a former military variant of the M1928

  • O’Hara had a M1 Thompson during the hotel lobby shootout

  • Karl Lennox returned fire in the lobby with a Browning Automatic Rifle

  • The gangster squad outside the Hotel were peppered by a Lewis Gun shot from the balcony of the hotel.

  • Model 24 Stielhandgranate hand granades known as potato mashers were used by Cohen's men during the car chase scene

 

F-bombs:

  • 25

F-bomb cluster:

  • "Los Angeles is my fucking destiny, you motherfucker" - Mickey Cohen

 

C-bombs:

  • 1

  • “My whole crop of cunt is ruined” - Mickey Cohen

 

Vehicles:

  • Cohen's men were seen several times driving a 1948 Cadillac Series 62 Touring Sedan including the attemped hit on Dragna

  • Sgt Wooters drove a 1941 Ford Super De Luxe Convertible Club Coupe

  • Bullet-nosed 1947 Ford sedans often served as police cars throughout the movie

  • Micky Cohen was chauffeured around in a 1949 Packard Super 8 limousine

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not the best received gangster flick of all time and it certainly does not register anywhere near my top 10 favourite gangster movies, but is it as bad as the critics will have you believe?

 

Loosely based (… sorry I mean very loosely based) on the nine part article ‘La Noire: Tales of the Gangster Squad’ published in the LA Times and the subsequent book both by Paul Lieberman, the movie is set in 1949 noir Los Angeles and the city is in the grip of Brooklyn born Jewish gangster Mickey Cohen. Cohen controls gambling, prostitution, drugs and just about every other illegal activity in the City of Angels and there’s no-one to stop him. He has the LAPD in his pocket; the mayor and the rest of city hall are all on his payroll and regular citizens are afraid. This apparently leaves no other option, but for an off the record, under the radar, no-holds-barred, elite squad of no nonsense cops who take shit from no one to bring him down… stop me if you’ve heard this one.

 

 

Sergeant John O’Mara is a paragon of virtue, a World War II veteran who served in the intelligence service, trained in Guerrilla tactics and is decorated with a Silver Star and Two Purple Hearts. Micky Cohen even describes him as a goddamn hero when he busts up one of his brothels single handed to rescue a damsel in distress; a stunt which does not go unnoticed by Police Chief William Parker either. 

 

Chief Parker identifies O’Mara as the man to wage war on Cohen and despite his wife, moments earlier, telling him she needs a husband not a hero and not to “belly-flop on a grenade”, O’Mara excepts the challenge to; “shatter his operations”, “destroy his establishments” and “drive that bastard out of this city” not quite the low key operation Mrs O had in mind.

 

 

O’Mara with the help of Mrs O’Mara (Sgt John appears to lack the smarts) assembles a squad of LAPD misfits. As we’re introduced to each of the squad members we’re given a glimpse of their special talents: crack shot with a pistol; knife thrower; etc. (think more Pulp Fiction Fox-Force-Five than Ocean’s Eleven). By no means is this the end of the World, but it’s certainly the end of any serious character development. Their special skills narrowly define their role throughout the movie and character arcs are non-existent.

 

 

Josh Brolin is certainly an actor who deserves more than a simple one-track avenging angel role. Cohen is hardly a criminal mastermind difficult to outthink (at least in this portrayal), but O’Mara doesn’t even try and instead charges head first into every scenario as if he’s bullet-proof and only by dumb luck and gaping holes in the plot does it seem that his efforts are in any way successful.

 

 

Sean Penn’s version of Mickey Cohen is seemingly a bad impression of Robert De Niro and unsurprisingly resembles De Niro’s Capone in The Untouchables (not the only similarity to De Palma’s Elliot Ness movie). That’s not necessarily a negative; in a movie about gangsters, Cohen is the only mobster with any real character; the rest are more like henchman from a Bond movie or a Star Trek red shirt. Penn’s over the top portrayal is likely necessary just so that we can distinguish the good guys from the bad. After all, the Gangster Squad are operating outside of the law and are happy to firebomb, beat up, intimidate and murder; all without ever stopping and questioning whether the means justify the end.

 

Ramblings about manifest destiny and referring to his dog as Little Mickey while at a sit down with rival mob boss Jack Dragna only serve to reinforce the mental instability of our chief villain. A psychotic bad guy is usually a treat, making them unpredictable and edgy. Sadly significant plot twists are missing and the climax is (yet another) shoot-out, although it does culminate in a fist fight. A seasoned pugilist as Cohen must have been concerned by the weight, height and reach advantage he was conceding to O’Mara so it was perhaps no surprise and only fitting that superhero O’Mara gets to punch Cohen right on his prosthetic nose.

 

Any movie that initiates Ryan Gosling into the gangster genre is alright in my book. With limited material he’s still pretty cool as cynical Sergeant Jerry Wooters who is also a World War II veteran like O'Mara, but is content to do as little as possible to get by. Wooters is even prepared to turn a blind eye to criminal activity if it’s going to inconvenience him too much, but he still has his principles and unlike most in his department, he is not a policeman on the take. The anti-Cohen crusade sounds too much like hard work for him and he glibly rebuffs O’Mara’s offer to join with “The whole town's underwater. You're grabbing a bucket when you should be grabbing a bathing suit”. However, when his little buddy shoeshine-boy is caught in the cross fire in an attempted hit by Cohen’s men on Dragna, he has a change of heart.

 

 

Every gangster needs a mol and Emma Stone plays Grace Faraday a cookie-cut young girl who travels west looking for stardom, but winds up on the arm of LA’s no.1 gangster Mickey Cohen. An awkward and unconvincing love triangle fuses together Grace, Wooters and Cohen which should provide a powder-keg of tension to the plot, but a lack of spark between any of the trio sees this fizzle out to a point where Grace no-longer even fears the psychotic crime boss and offers to testify against him.

 

Jessica Rabbit-esque, Stone smoulders and with blasé coolness delivers some classic noir lines “Where have you been all my miserable life?” she says meeting Sgt Wooters for the first time. Grace is very easy on the eye, but offers little to drive or even sustain the movie other than to work on Cohen’s sophistication.

 

 

Studded with a stellar cast, but curtailed by a clichéd script and dimensionless characters, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn and Josh Brolin do their upmost to save a movie that was almost torn apart between two cars and left for the wolves behind the Hollywoodland sign. And to be fair they probably do.

 

I enjoyed watching large aspects of this movie it's beautifully shot, made with exisite attention to detail in the design and cinematography capturing post war Los Angeles in its neo noir style; even the costumes appear spot on. However the plot lets everything down, as it moves between historic locations, from one gun fight to the next - style over substance is the phrase that comes to mind. A body count in excess of a half century as a result of the uncontrolled shooting and violence relegates Gangster Squad to a run of the mill action movie rather than an entry into the pantheon of Gangster Flicks.

 

 

In the movie’s climax in the hotel lobby (need to watch the Matrix to see how a lobby shoot out is done) Cohen with a sneer and Tommy Gun in hand, shouts at O’Mara “Here comes Santy Clause”. While Penn gives it every menacing tone he can muster, it doesn’t sound convincing or even ironic, just cheesy. Then I asked myself “are people taking this movie too seriously?” The Santy Clause line is clearly a reference to Tony Montana’s “Say hello to my leetle friends” line from Scarface, but is Gangster Squad intentionally cheesy. Are we supposed to snigger when Sgt Wooters retorts to Grace’s “Want to take me away from all this and make an honest woman out of me?” with “No ma'am, I was just hoping to take you to bed”. Is Gangster Squad actually supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek and are too many people missing the subtlety or am I just looking too hard to save a movie I had such high hopes for?

 

 

It is worth noting that a very expensive post production reshoot was sanctioned due to the unfortunate parallels between a sequence involving a violent shootout in Grumman’s Theatre and the Aurora Massacre at the Dark Knight Rises premiere shortly before its release. As a mark of respect the violent and bloody shootout inside a movie theatre was changed to a violent and bloody shootout in Chinatown, hmmm.

 

 

With a long history of watching Gangster Flicks behind me, one thing I’ve noticed and this movie reinforced is that they need to be shot from the gangsters’ perspective. The true stories behind real police work to bring down underworld figures are pretty dull and consist mainly of paperwork, wiretaps, stakeouts and forensic accounting. So when a movie like Gangster Squad comes along with the focus firmly on the guys in the white hats then Hollywood needs to step in and invent the drama and the excitement much to the detriment of the real story. There are exceptions, but this ain’t one.

 

 

One of the disappointments of this movie is that it seems to simply move from one gun fight to the next with little plot development or reason. However, the bullet battles are superbly shot and very entertaining. You expect to see a Tommy Gun or two in a gangster movie set in the 1940’s and in this respect it does not let you down. There is also a terrific car chase midway through the movie, which technically is top notch  - some shots are entirely CGI  - as are the era specific vintage cars. Touched on already, the film is visual treat and (only) in this respect does it come anywhere close to being as good as LA Confidential.

 

As a shoot ‘em up, superficial blast of fun, Gangster Squad is great movie if you don’t want to involve yourself too emotionally. However, if you’ve waited a long time for a gangster movie to sit on your shelf alongside The Godfather, Goodfellas or even Donnie Brasco then prepare to be disappointed.

 

GFlick Rating

- Very disappointing*

Egg noodles and ketchup

Watch Sean Penn do angry-face. Yeah! ... Acting!

Gangster Squad: Mickey Cohen (1)
Gangster Squad: Mickey Cohen (2)
Gangster Squad: Mickey Cohen (3)
Gangster Squad: Mickey Cohen (4)
Gangster Squad: Mickey Cohen (5)
Gangster Squad: Mickey Cohen (6)
Gangster Squad: Mickey Cohen (7)
Gangster Squad: Mickey Cohen (8)
Gangster Squad: Mickey Cohen (9)

Max Kennard:

Special Skill -

Gun-slinger

Coleman Harris:

Special Skill -

Knives

'Christmas' Ramirez:

Special Skill -

Drives like an F1 driver

Conwell Keeler:

Special Skill -

Science

* Disappointing for a gangster flick, but quite a thrilling and entertaining action movie

Why not check out other gangster flicks

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Written by Bada Bing

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