"Gangster Squad" Full of Popular Movie Stars

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A crime drama chronicling the LAPD's fight to keep East Coast Mafia types out of Los Angeles during the 1940s and 50s. Based on the Los Angeles Times' seven part series titled "Tales From the Gangster Squad", the film stars Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Josh Brolin & Giovanni Ribisi.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
January 7th, 2013

"Gangster Squad" Full of Popular Movie Stars

-- Most big studio films released in theaters have at least one star who is recognizable to a large audience. Often, a film will feature two or three big stars to help attract moviegoers into the theaters. But in the case of "Gangster Squad," the ensemble cast features no less than six stars who are household names, and includes several others who are known by plenty of ardent film fans.

Sean Penn heads up the cast as Mickey Cohen, a gangster from the East Coast of the United States who wishes to move in on the West Coast-specifically, California. He knows that in California there is plenty of action to be had and money to be made, especially in the star-studded Los Angeles area. So he hatches a plan to move into the area with his thugs, thus establishing himself as a mobster kingpin on both coasts. Penn was one of the first actors to sign up for a role in the film; the offer came around at about the time it was announced that he would become the Ambassador-at-Large to Haiti. Once the two-time Oscar winner signed on, the film's producers had no trouble getting other actors to commit to the movie.

Josh Brolin stars as Sgt. John O'Mara of the Los Angeles police force. He leads the charge against Cohen and his henchmen, trying to keep them out of the city that he loves. The film is set in the 1940s and 1950s, allowing Brolin and the other stars to wear period clothes and carry antique guns and hardware as props. This isn't the first time that Brolin has chosen a role in a period piece, nor is it the first time he has played Penn's adversary in a film. The two first acted opposite each other in "Milk," for which Penn won the second Oscar of his career, in 2008. Brolin has also been in period dramas that include the 2010 remake of "True Grit" and an episode of the television miniseries "Into the West."

The film will likely appeal to a wide audience because it features both popular older actors such as Penn and Brolin, accompanied by younger actors like Ryan Gosling. He plays Sgt. Jerry Wooters, a coworker of O'Mara's who joins him in his crusade to send Cohen and his gang back to the East Coast. In dramas, Gosling often plays the dramatic, passionate character, as evidenced by his roles in films such as "Drive" and "The Notebook." His character in "Gangster Squad" is central to the overall plot, giving Gosling plenty of scenes to satisfy his legions of fans.

Emma Stone is the only female who gets substantial screen time, and she makes the best of it. She plays Cohen's mistress, Grace Faraday, who comes to Los Angeles and immediately catches Wooters' eye. They share several scenes in which the chemistry is electric, probably because they have already played love interests opposite each other in "Crazy Stupid Love" in 2011. Stone is back to her trademark red hair, which was blonde in the blockbuster "The Amazing Spider-Man" and will likely be blonde (which is actually Stone's natural color) again in the sequel to the film, which will begin production in 2013.

Nick Nolte may be better known lately for his personal problems and his subsequent police mug shot. However, he is a fine actor and was known across the globe back in his acting heyday. Here, he plays Chief Bill Parker, who may or may not be accepting money from Cohen to look the other way so that Cohen can establish his illicit business in Los Angeles. He has several tense scenes, especially with Gosling and Brolin, who play two of the few remaining cops on the squad who are not getting paid off by Cohen.

As if all of those fine actors were not enough, "Gangster Squad" also features Giovanni Ribisi as a police detective who joins Gosling and Brolin in facing off against Cohen. Michael Pena, Anthony Mackie, and Robert Patrick round out the rest of the detectives who also refuse bribe money from Cohen. Frank Grillo, Mireille Enos, Lucy Walsh, and Jon Polito round out the huge cast in supporting roles.

The film was originally scheduled to be released in September 2012, but the release was delayed due to a scene in which several people in a theater were murdered by gangsters. Studio executives felt it mirrored the July 2012 theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado that occurred during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises." Warner Brothers, the film's distributor, announced that changes would be made to the scene, pushing back the opening of the film to January 11, 2013.