Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad is a 2013 American action crime film directed by Ruben Fleischer, written by Will Beall and starring Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone 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, 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 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, 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 is placed in charge of recruiting additional officers. With the help of his wife, Connie, he recruits Sgt. Jerry Wooters and detectives Coleman Harris, Conway Keeler, Navidad Ramirez, and Max Kennard. Calling themselves the "Gangster Squad", the unit begins the task of destroying Cohen's criminal operations.

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. 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, 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 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 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, but gets beaten by inmates who were friends of Jack Whalen.

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.

Box office

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.

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).

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 32% based on 200 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, the film holds a 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.

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