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Gangster Squad is a 2013 crime thriller directed by Ruben Fleischer, which follows a group of detectives in the LAPD who fight against the West Coast Mafia, led by notorious gangster Mickey Cohen, in 1949.Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) is a former boxer-turned-gangster who maintains an iron grip on Los Angeles, and runs a series of prostitution and drug rackets that have the city locked in a sea of corruption. After busting one of Cohen's men when he attempts to rape a young woman, Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) is approached by the LAPD's Chief of Police, Bill Parker (Nick Nolte), to create a special squad that will take down Cohen's empire by any means necessary. To that end, O'Mara recruits a group of five men to help him, including Detective Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie), gunhand Max Kennard (Robert Patrick), wiretapping expert Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi), new recruit Navidad Ramírez (Michael Pena) and Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling).As the team begins to take out more and more of Cohen's establishments, the gangster steps up his search for them and declares an all-out war on the squad. Complicating matters is Wooters' burgeoning relationship with Grace Faraday (Emma Stone), who is Cohen's girlfriend. The conflict eventually leads into a final confrontation, with the very soul of Los Angeles at stake.The film is a Genre Throwback to the Film Noir movies of the 1940's and 50's, and was released in January 2013 to mixed reviews. A key sequence involving a group of mobsters shooting through a screen in a movie theater was reshot due to the film's proximity to the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting.
This film provides examples of:
All-Star Cast: Most of the main cast, including Brolin, Gosling, Stone, Penn, Ribisi, Mackie, Nolte, Patrick and Peńa.
An Asskicking Christmas: Most of the film takes place around Christmas. Notably, O'Mara's Christmas tree is still standing after Cohen has his residence shot up, and the climax takes place in a hotel lobby with a large tree and plenty of presents.
Anti-Hero: Most characters seem to show no mercy towards their enemies, even bullying them or torturing them instead of just killing them, and save for Wheeler, they show no remorse for the things they do to the mooks in their way. O'Mara's wife encourages him to invoke this when recruiting his squad, stating that the "Boyscouts" he's been looking at are probably dirty.
Asshole Victim: The gangster who gets corrosive acid poured on his balls by Wooters can't really be felt sorry for, as he was planning to throw the acid in Grace's face.
Cohen's boxing skills are alluded to several times in the film. The final shootout ends with O'Mara and Cohen having an impromptu boxing match after the latter's car crashes.
During the squad's first training scene, Kennard tells Navidad (while demonstrating skeet shooting with a tin can) that he should not focus on where the target is, but where it will be. Navidad later uses this skill to shoot and kill Cohen's last surviving lieutenant, who is about to execute O'Mara during the climax.
Cowboy Cop: The movie is about a whole squad of them. Bonus points for Kennard, who literally looks and talks like a cowboy.
Epic Fail: The squad's first operation (in Burbank) gets inexplicably worse by the minute. The team tries to take down one of Cohen's casinos at gunpoint, only to run smackdab into a group of armed officers who arrest Davis and O'Mara after they fail to get into the squad's car while giving it a running boost. The two men get arrested and thrown in jail (after being briefly beaten), and are set to be picked up and whacked by Cohen's men. The team arrives to save them, but Kennard's plan of tying a rope from his vehicle to the prison window bars fails (the bumper gets ripped off the car), Keeler's plan to cut the power results in chaos in the prison block, and the whole thing would have gone south if Wooters hadn't show up.
Fiery Coverup: Cohen has a hotel masquerading as a front for a brothel burned to the ground (along with the three men who failed him), because he doesn't want the police to find out and can collect the insurance money.
The Greatest Story Never Told: The Squad's actions were not recorded in history and the Chief of Police got all the credit, so only the Squad's friends and family know what they did.
Grenade Hot Potato: During a chase scene with a group of mobsters transporting a drug shipment, one of the mobsters lights a grenade and tosses it onto the hood of the vehicle Wooters and O'Mara are in. Wooters has enough time to shoot out the front window, pick the grenade and lob it backwards over the hood of the car before it explodes behind them.
Guns Akimbo: Wrevock does it with Tommyguns in Chinatown.
Heroic Sacrifice: Jack Whalen confronts Cohen at the Garden of Allah Hotel in order to buy Grace some time to escape, and while he does put up a good fight against Cohen and his men, he is soon executed and thrown into the hotel pool.
Historical-Domain Character: Aside from Cohen and O'Mara, Darryl Gates (the eventual chief of the L.A. Police Department), who appears as an officer.
Hollywood History: The film plays very fast and loose with the real-life events that inspired the movie.
The real John O'Mara was not a gunsmith at all, and was claimed to have only fired one shot in his entire career (a warning shot at a perpetrator). In the film, Brolin's O'Mara shoots men in the legs and kills several others with a Tommy gun.
In the film, Cohen is arrested after a final confrontation with O'Mara outside of a hotel. In real life, Cohen was only arrested twice, for federal income tax evasion in the early 50's and in 1961.
Con Keeler was not killed by Cohen's men, and lived to be interviewed for the book that Gangster Squad is based on.
Jack Dragna was never killed by Cohen. He died of a heart attack at a Los Angeles motel in 1956, after facing the threat of deportation and a campaign of harassment by the Gangster Squad.
Jack Whalen died in 1959, shot in the head at Rondelli's in Sherman Oaks. Cohen associate Frank Lo Cigno was charged with the murder but eventually acquitted, although some (John O'Mara in particular) believed that Mickey Cohen himself fired the fatal shot.
Infant Immortality: Played straight with O'Mara's infant child. Subverted with Pete the shoeshine kid.
Instant Seduction: Wooters' explanation that he's a bible salesman (and that he only wants to get her into bed) is enough for Grace to go home with him a few minutes after meeting him - and while she's with Cohen, no less.
The Oner: The scene where Wooters first meets Whalen at the nightclub is one long continuous 80 second long tracking shot, following Wooters from when he meets with Pete outside, pays him off, and then follows him all the way to his seat.
One Steve Limit: Jack Whalen and Jack Dragna have secondary roles in the film. Justified, as both are based on historical figures.
Outside Ride: When Mickey Cohen flees from the shootout at the climax of the film, O'Mara follows by jumping onto the back of the car and holding on. He is helped by the fact the rear window had been shot out earlier.
Post-Climax Confrontation: The climax is the squad's assault on the hotel where Cohen is holed, but the final confrontation (between O'Mara and Cohen) doesn't occur until after Cohen's car crashes into a water fountain a couple blocks away.
Pre-Mortem One-Liner: After Pete gets shot, Wooters comes up shooting at the hitmen. The hitman with the shotgun falls while the two with the Thompson submachine guns get into the car and flee. Wooters steps up to the fallen hitman:
Hitman: You can't shoot me, you're a cop.
Wooters: Not anymore.[blasts his head off with the hitman's shotgun]
Pretty in Mink: Grace wears a fur-trimmed coat, a mink-trimmed stole, and a white fox wrap in various scenes.
Real Life Writes the Plot: In light of an actual incident, the trailers and ads were pulled from films and TV due to a scene where a shoot out takes place in a movie theater. The cast and crew actually got together afterward to film another scene (the Chinatown sting operation) to replace the cinema scene. The result was the film being pushed back several months, but the filmmakers avoided some serious backlash.
Refusal of the Call: Wooters seems content to let things stay the way they are because he knows he can't change anything. He doesn't get into the squad until Pete the shoeshine boy is shot when Cohen's men attempt to assassinate a fellow mob figure, which provides the catalyst for him to finally help O'Mara.
Returning War Vet: O'Mara, Wooters and Keeler all served in WWII. Wooters was a Navy aviator, and as such, his experience doesn't come into play (although it's mentioned in dialogue to Grace). However, O'Mara was an OSS operative and thus experienced in guerrilla warfare, and Keeler was in Army Intelligence, meaning learning how to gather information.
Take Up My Sword: Kennard gives his revolver to Ramírez just before he dies from a bullet wound inflicted by one of Cohen's men.
Trouble Entendre: After getting word of the hit on the drug shipment, Cohen tells his main assassin, "You know the drill", which both means "Kill the guy who brought me the bad news," and also means, "Use the power drill and drill a hole through his brain."
Unflinching Walk: Played with. The gang starts to walk away from a soon-exploding car, and when it goes up in flames they turn to look at it. Very casually.
Vapor Trail: When Cohen's goon attempt to ambush the squad in Chinatown, they open the fuel tank in the truck the squad are converging on. One of the gangsters then tosses his lit cigarette into the pooling fuel to light it up.
You Would Make a Great Model: In the opening, a young woman is approached by one of Cohen's men to audition for a film role soon after arriving in L.A. She is almost raped by three of Cohen's men after arriving at the apartment (which is on Cohen's turf), but is saved by O'Mara before anything happens. The three men are subsequently then offed by being locked up in an elevator in a building that is then burned down for the insurance money.