It’s been kind of quiet on the gangster film front for a little while now, with one of the last notable titles being the (unexpectedly) disastrous Public Enemies from Michael Mann, though last year’s The Town was a seriously solid crime film. Warner Brothers has been edging close to sending two new mafia films into production for awhile now, and they’ve finally pulled the proverbial trigger on one of them, and is putting serious energy behind the second.
According to Deadline, the long-gestating Gangster Squad has finally gotten the official greenlight from the water tower and will move forward as Ruben Fleischer’s (Zombieland) next film, to follow his comedy 30 Minutes or Less which hits on August 12th of this year. The studio is apparently looking to fill the shoes of Mickey Cohen with Sean Penn, while the lead member of the titular squad will possibly be taken by Ryan Gosling. The film revolves around a famous squad of cops that I’ve compared to the “Men in Black taking out the scum of the mafia,” and is patterned off of a detailed series of articles by Paul Lieberman (linked in that previous article). The squad was an off-the-books, clandestine operation that focused on only the juiciest of mafia targets and existed to collect as much data as possible rather than make arrests. This has long been a high-priority project for the studio –one which they offered to some of their favorite filmmakers– and the success of a film like The Town could only have made them more eager to get it rolling. America loves a well made movie about shadowy organizations and crime, and if Fleischer can step up to the dramatic plate without losing the sharp energy of his freshman film, then this could be a knock out of the park. Penn and Gosling are certainly strong players around which you can center a film.
There’s also a murkier bit of information from Deadline about another gangster film Warner Brothers has taken a shine to- one which covers the early years of Al Capone. Called Cicero, it would likely cover the years of Capone wrestling control of the Chicago underworld from the North Side Gang, which is filled with dozens of interesting events (many of which have been covered before, of course) that make for great cinema. Nearly constant assassination attempts, the construction of a bullet-proof limo that was eventually confiscated and used as FDR’s vehicle, and of course the St. Valentine’s Day massacre that tainted his public celebrity could all possibly be covered. There’s no greenlight yet, though there are rumors that a post-Potter David Yates would lead the project. If that’s the case, it’s likely that Cicero would be just as or more of a high-profile project as Gangster Squad. It seemed to me that the Capone sub-plot of Boardwalk Empire was one of the most popular elements of that show, so WB should have no problems selling the flick. Expect more news from that as Yates get closer to freedom from Hogwarts, if the rumors of his involvement are true.
I’m a sucker for a great gangster film, and the enduring popularity of the genre over the entire course of cinema’s existence suggests that most of you are too. Fingers crossed that WB is working off some worthy scripts and all these great pieces fall together.
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