I haven’t read Will Beall‘s screenplay (which is based on Paul Leiberman‘s 2008 seven-part L.A. Times series titled “L.A. Noir: Tales From The Gangster Squad”), but the just-released trailer for Ruben Fleischer‘s The Gangster Squad (Warner Bros., 10.19) indicates a fairly fast and loose approach to facts a la Brian DePalma‘s The Untouchables (’87).
It’s being sold as a “get Mickey Cohen” movie in the same way The Untouchables was a “get Al Capone” flick. But just as the real-life Eliot Ness was portrayed as having made noise and gotten tough with Al Capone, in real life he pretty much stood by while the feds nailed the Chicago gangster tor tax evasion. Likewise the real-life Gangster Squad, led by John O’Mara (Josh Brolin in the film) and Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling, ditto), never killed or jailed or put legendary L.A. gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) out of business. They mostly seem to have messed with his operations to some extent, or otherwise harassed and irritated. But that was it.
Like Capone, Cohen did time for tax evasion. Two stretches, in fact — one from the early to mid ’50s and the second from ’61 through ’72. The real-life Gangster Squad may or may not have played a role in helping to put Cohen in jail for the first tax-evasion rap, but so far I haven’t read, learned or been told that. (I had a chat yesterday with Tere Tereba, author of “Mickey Cohen: The Life and Times of L.A.’s Notorious Mobster,” and she didn’t seem persuaded that the Gangster Squad had that much to do with it.)