In terms of American crime history, Mickey Cohen never receives the same widespread notoriety of a Jesse James or an Al Capone. Los Angeles historians, however, know all about the Brooklyn-born thug's legacy. After bouncing around from Chicago (where he briefly chopped it up with Capone) to Cleveland, the Jewish troublemaker settled down in L.A. in the late 1940s, where he was assigned by higher-up criminals Meyer Lansky and Lou Rothkopf to keep tabs on their associate Bugsy Siegel. There, in the City of Angels, Cohen truly came of age, upping his murder count, power status, and reputation so much that a group of cops and detectives ignored their profession's rules in order to take Cohen and his men out. Or at least try to.
The LAPD's law-breaking pursuit of Cohen provides the basis for Gangster Squad, the new highly stylized, star-packed action-crime film from director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less). In theaters nationwide this Friday, Gangster Squad features actors like Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, and Anthony Mackie playing the good guys. On the other end, there's Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen, with the two-time Academy Award-winning actor's face altered by makeup to more closely resemble Cohen's.
Based on Gangster Squad's trailers and commercials, it's clear that Penn—spouting braggadocios taunts, cold-hearted threats, and grimacing while firing weapons—is in entertainingly heightened form. But the jury is still out on whether he's as good as The 15 Best Portrayals of Real-Life Gangsters in Movies or not. As you'll see here, the pressure is definitely on him.
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)