Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer’s latest venture Gangster Squad has been buzzing through audiences' eardrums with the recent release of the first trailer. If the 1940’s film noir, gangster homage doesn’t perk your interest, then the illustrious cast surely will: Sean Penn (with flawlessly grizzled make-up), Nick Nolte, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena, and Emma Stone as the essential femme fatale.

Set in Los Angeles circa 1949, Gangster Squad follows the attempted take-down of notorious Brooklyn-born Jewish mob boss Mickey Cohen (played by Penn) by a small unit of police officers who decide that in order to end Cohen’s reign of the city (which he holds through force of his own men as well as dirty police and politicians) they will need to work outside the law.

The script was written by the former LAPD employee Will Beall, who based his writings off Paul Lieberman’s collection of LA Times articles regarding the city police department’s take -down of the real-life Cohen in the 40’s and 50’s. Gangster Squad is already raising questions about an Oscar nomination for Penn. So, since we’re all on the edge of our seats awaiting the much-anticipated release in September, or, let’s be honest, even just the next clip they decide to throw at us, what else is there to do but analyze the trailer to the point of collapse?

First watch the trailer here, and then read below for a closer look:

00:10 – A silhouette of a man boxing in slow motion. Sweat drips off his forehead. A song with deep bass vibrates in tune to his movements.

00:18 – A shot of a Los Angeles estate. A large man wears a fedora and black suit as he walks past carrying a gun; classic black cars, roadsters and speedsters, line the cobblestone drive. We’re confident it’s not 2012, it’s the 1940’s, maybe‘50’s, and these are California’s mobsters. “Every castle,” forebodes Penn’s voiceover “is built on a pile of bones.”

00:26 –Penn’s face is grizzled and cocky. “Back East I was a gangster…” his voiceover says. The camera angles up at him pointing a gun towards something on the ground. A loud sound resonates as the screen goes black—perhaps a gunshot, perhaps just the music? A close up of Penn at a restaurant. He begins a sinister sneer. We’re not sure if we’re on his side anymore. “Out here,” comes his voiceover. “I’m God.”

00:34 – We’re introduced to a range of characters: Brolin, Nolte, Gosling, Ribisi and Pena. They dress in suits, fedoras and gun harnesses strapped around their shoulders. They must be cops. We assume this must be the illustrious “Gangster Squad.” But are they the righteous cops, the good guys?

00:39 – The shots are dark, very film noir. We see a shoot out involving the police. It’s clear there is a dark and growing underbelly of the city. Nolte’s character appears tan and thick skinned, like he’s been dealing with crime his whole life. “Los Angeles, is a damsel in distress,” he tells Brolin’s character. “I need you to save her.”

00:43 – Chairs are tossed, elbows thrown. Brolin holds up his police badge. A newspaper is thrown on a table with the headline: Gang Wars Escalate. Gosling and Brolin are seen in the desert with the three other men practicing their shot. Nolte tells them they aren’t to arrest anyone; the job is off the books. So, they’re dirty cops? We’re unsure whose side we’re on.

01:02 – A fancy dinner. Gosling is there. So is Cohen—we see Emma Stone’s character seated with him. She’s the femme fatale in this one—red hair, red lips. “It doesn’t seem right,” says Gosling. “That he should have so much, while others have so little.” Gosling and Stone connect stares across the room. He seems to have wider spread plans than simply destroying Cohen’s reign.

01:08 – Someone’s counting money—a lot of money. We see Cohen; a shot of a casino. Cohen mentions whores and dope. So, that’s how Cohen makes his cash, and his celebrity. “Bam!” he says, and as if on his cue, two automatic rifles gun down a house lined with Christmas lights. “Buh-Bam!” Again, as if on cue, a car explodes.

01:19 – “We’re going to war!” says Brolin. Gosling’s tossed a rifle. Surrounded by a table of money, Gosling lights a bundle of it on fire and tosses it on the pile. Brolin says, after they succeed, no one will even know what they’ve done. So, it’s not about money, and not fame. It’s a battle of morals perhaps? Maybe it’s a battle of pride.

01:32 – Jay-Z’s “Oh My God” starts playing. No Badges. No Names. No Mercy. Pops on the screen. They raid a house; Brolin beats on a man; a car explodes while they walk away triumphant and unaffected.

01:40 – The music abruptly stops: Stone asks Gosling’s character if he wants to take her away from all this. He’s soft spoken; he admits he was just hoping to take her to bed. “He’ll kill you if he finds out, you know?” It flashes to Cohen, then back to Gosling who looks at her with straight faced indifference.

01:45 – The music slams back on: Cohen guns something down, a floral centerpiece explodes and glass shatters. “A cop that’s not for sale is like a dog with rabies. You’ve just gotta put ‘em down,” he says. Brolin walks through a packed theater, a black and white movie plays. From behind the screen four men blast through, Tommy guns blazing.

02:10 – The music stops again. A dark street. The only light comes from the streetlamps and neon signs. They cast glowing orange shadows against the wet city landscape; deserted expect parked cars which line the side walk. In the distance a figure stands over the body of a man lying with his back to the pavement, his hands up in defiant surrender he says, “You can’t shoot me—you’re a cop.”

02:17 – The music comes back in to screech the final lines. The camera stares up along the barrel of the shot gun to reveal Gosling. He cocks the gun, his fedora slightly tilted, the black sky behind him. He pauses, “not anymore.”

—SIOBHAN MCBRIDE

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