Gangster Squad (2013)

US / 113 minutes / color / Village Roadshow, Lin, Kevin McCormick, Warner Dir: Ruben Fleischer Pr: Dan Lin, Kevin McCormick, Michael Tadross Scr: Will Beall Story: Gangster Squad: Covert Cops, the Mob, and the Battle for Los Angeles (2012) by Paul Lieberman Cine: Dion Beebe Cast: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick, Michael Peña, Mireille Enos, Troy Garity, Holt McCallany, Sullivan Stapleton, James Carpinello, James Hèbert, Evan Jones, Josh Pence, John Aylward, Jack Conley, Jack McGee, Jon Polito, Yvette Tucker, Ambyr Childers.

Gangster Squad - 4 shock headlines

The opening credits announce that this is based on a true story but, despite the occasional character being based with extraordinary looseness on a genuine historical personage and the LAPD indeed once having had a Gangster Squad (though founded in 1946 rather than 1949 and structurally nothing like this one), the movie is essentially an attempt to adapt the gangster movie into the style of sci-fi shootemups like The Terminator (1984) and its legion of successors. There are also thematic resemblances to pieces like Shichinin no Samurai (1954; vt Seven Samurai), The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Dirty Dozen (1967), in that a small, off-the-books group of (effectively) guerrillas topples a mighty criminal enterprise.

Gangster Squad - 1 Cohen's moll Grace (Emma Stone)

Cohen’s moll Grace (Emma Stone) is open to persuasion to seek comfort elsewhere.

Gangster Mickey Cohen (Penn) has effectively taken over LA and its environs, with half the cops in his pocket, including some high-ranking officers as well as at least one judge, Judge Carter (Aylward). WWII veteran John O’Mara (Brolin), now an LAPD sergeant, spots one of Cohen’s men, Mitch Racine (Hèbert), inveigling a pretty newcomer to Hollywood (Childers) back to a hotel for a gang rape; O’Mara very violently busts the joint open and Continue reading

American Gangster (2007)

US / 176 minutes (unrated), 158 minutes (rated) / color / Imagine, Relativity, Scott Free, Film Rites, Universal Dir: Ridley Scott Pr: Brian Grazer, Ridley Scott Scr: Steven Zaillian Story: “The Return of Superfly” (2000 magazine article, New York) by Mark Jacobson Cine: Harris Savides Cast: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cuba Gooding Jr., Josh Brolin, Ted Levine, Armand Assante, Clarence Williams III, John Ortiz, John Hawkes, RZA, Lymari Nadal, Yul Vazquez, Ruby Dee, Idris Elba, Carla Gugino, Joe Morton, Common, Richie Coster, Jon Polito, Kevin Corrigan, Roger Guenveur Smith, Malcolm Goodwin, Ric Young, Roger Bart, Tip Harris, Kadee Strickland, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Norman Reedus, Melissia Hill, Bari K. Willerford, Skyler Fortgang.

A gangster movie that claims to be based on a true story although, by all accounts, it’s largely an exercise in mythopoeia.

In Harlem in 1968, ruthless yet philosophically inclined, intelligent and often goodheartedly generous gangster Bumpy Johnson (Williams, bizarrely uncredited) dies of heart failure while he and his chauffeur and right-hand man Frank Lucas (Washington) are staring in dismay at the contents of a discount store. Assuming Frank is just a nobody, gangsters like Tango (Elba) move in on Bumpy’s old turf, little realizing they’re up against a criminal genius. It’s not long before Frank hits on the notion of dispensing with the middleman in the heroin racket, instead buying it directly from sources in Southeast Asia and bribing US service personnel to bring the dope into the US aboard military transports returning from the still-raging Vietnam War. His other major import is of his extended family from North Carolina to be his employees/partners, a job that his brothers willingly take on after they witness him coldbloodedly murdering the arrogant Tango on a crowded Harlem sidewalk.

American Gangster - In search of a drug supplier

Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) goes in search of a drug supplier.

At the same time, Newark cop Richie Roberts (Crowe) is earning himself the undiluted loathing of the rest of his PD through being honest. When he and partner Javier J. Rivera (Ortiz) come across nearly $1 million in unmarked bills and Continue reading