Just when you start to think that the studios have given up on the gangster film genre, a new crime film comes along and restores your faith – at least for now.
Warner Bros., the studio with one of the most storied rosters of crime films, is behind “The Gangster Squad,” based on the Los Angeles Time’s seven-part series on corruption in City Hall and the Police Department, and the East Coast mob’s attempt to infiltrate the City of Angels.
The movie’s logline – something about the LAPD's fight to keep East Coast Mafia types out of Los Angeles in the 1940s and ’50s, doesn’t exactly shout clear, high-stakes goal. But that will likely be fixed in copious script rewrites that are no doubt taking place as we speak.
The question is, will the movie breathe new life into standard gangster faire: a detective with a dark side; cops tempted to accept graft; horror upon horror, a detective discovers his colleagues are on the take? By all accounts, L.A. was as corrupt as Chicago during this era, and crime mostly centered on liquor, gambling and brothels – oh, yes, and murder. All of this is excellent fodder for retelling the story of smog-choked L.A. of yore.
The director, Ruben Fleischer, will determine whether it’s a stylish character study with brains (“L.A. Confidential”) or a well-intentioned misfire (“Mulholland Falls”). Fleischer did himself proud helming “Zombieland.” We’ll see in August how he does with a crime comedy when “30 Minutes or Less” opens. Clearly, he’s got a knack for funny, but his directing credentials are lacking thus far when it comes to straight-ahead drama.
Still, Sean Penn is an apt choice to play gang leader Mickey Cohen. I can think of few other stars who have the acting chops and physical presence to tackle the role. Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Fernando Lara and Michael Pena have also signed on to the cast. As yet, IMDB doesn’t list which role Brolin will play.
If all goes well, “The Gangster Squad” will be unreeling at a multiplex near you sometime in 2013.