Penguin is a 2019 American crime film directed and produced by Todd Phillips, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Silver. The film, based on DC Comics characters, stars Andy Serkis as the Penguin. Penguin provides an origin story for the character; set in 1982, it follows Oswald Cobblepot, the young heir to the Cobblepot empire, who would later become one of Gotham's most powerful gangsters of all time. Penguin was produced by Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Films, and Joint Effort, in association with Bron Creative and Village Roadshow Pictures, and distributed by Warner Bros. The plotlines for this film were inspired by Joker's Asylum: Penguin #1 and Penguin: Pain and Prejudice and Batman Returns.
In 1982, there was a man named Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, son of the department store owner Tucker Cobblepot and brother to football hero Jason Cobblepot. Oswald was on top of a building where a woman named Silver St. Cloud was dangling from a birdcage on top of Oswald’s very high tower. Silver looked down onto the streets of Gotham to find everything on fire, where people were fighting each other, cars were being set on fire, windows were being broken, and where property was being destroyed. Silver then asked Oswald why he was doing this and Oswald angrily told Silver to call her the Penguin. Penguin then decided to start his story to Silver from the very beginning.
Oswald was bullied as a child for his short stature, obesity, way of walking, and beak-like nose. Oswald would always carry an umbrella on him forced by his overprotective father since Oswald almost died from bronchial pneumonia, caused by going out in the rain without an umbrella. Oswald almost died until he was nursed back to health by Tucker. Oswald’s mother was dead at some point leaving Tucker to be a widow. While out running an errand for Tucker, to return some books Tucker borrowed, Oswald was harassed by a street thug named Shark who stole his umbrella. Oswald pleaded for his umbrella by saying that he will die without his umbrella and the gang members began assaulting Oswald and calling him a penguin. Oswald is getting beat up until the fight got broken up by Detective Bullock and his partner rookie Detective James Gordon. Gordon and Bullock take Oswald to a hospital to get stitched up and Gordon returned Oswald his umbrella. However, Bullock warned Oswald not to get involved in any fights again or he will make an example out of him in front of everyone. Bullock then told Oswald his father and brother were here to see him. Upon leaving the hospital, Gordon was disappointed in Bullock for being hard on the victim, but Bullock told Gordon that he grew up with rich kids like Oswald and Bullock believed that rich kids were arrogant believing the laws didn't apply to them.
Elsewhere, socialite Silver St. Cloud moped about her failing social status. Her equally-vain fellow socialite Jason suggested that she throw a party. Silver agreed but felt she needed something special to spruce up the party. Jason then showed Silver a news article of Oswald being assaulted and revealed Tucker having his security team escort his son from now on. Believing that this will bring her back into the eyes of her peers, Silver agreed. Oswald is then disappointed in this turn of events only for Jason to inform him that Silver invited him to a dinner date at a restaurant owned by Rex ‘the Lion’ Calabrese, a Gotham City mobster. During the date with Silver, something happened at Calabrese’s restaurant. Maybe it was just a coincidence that the chef laughed while looking at Oswald’s direction. Maybe the Chef just happened to think of something funny, some joke he’d heard the other day while glancing around the room. Perhaps there was nothing malicious at all. Oswald was distracted by the chef laughing at him and began to question Silver. Oswald suspected that Silver had other motives for inviting him. Silver assured him that she was interested in him and his unique traits. Oswald was enchanted but still distracted by the chef. Nevertheless, Oswald and Silver ate their dinner and enjoyed their evening. Oswald never said anything about the Chef who laughed. As Oswald and Silver left, Shark and his gang make a move. Silver invited Oswald to her party which he accepted. Just then, Shark and his gang make their attack. Oswald began to fight them off with their umbrella until Gordon and Bullock intervened again. Bullock then warned Oswald to stay out of trouble.
Later, the Chef who laughed was visited by Oswald while the Chef was with his Romanian girlfriend. Oswald broke a beer bottle by smashing it on the Romanian girlfriend’s head and stabbed the Chef on his couch. Later, the Romanian girlfriend was blamed for the murder despite insisting that it was Oswald who killed him. Even though Lieutenant Sarah Essen didn’t believe her, Calabrese did and had Oswald abducted with a black bag put on his head later on when Oswald was proud of killing the Chef. Calabrese assigned Gordon to kill Cobblepot since Cobblepot was the last person to see the Chef alive. Gordon brought Cobblepot to the docks and hesitated to gun him down. Bullock urged Gordon to take the shot by asking him to think about his fiance Barbara Kean, Calabrese will kill her if Gordon didn’t comply to his demands. Wanting to do the right thing, Gordon told Oswald to never return to Gotham again, fired his gun, and pushed Oswald into the Gotham River. While Bullock thought Oswald was dead, he wasn’t. Gordon never pulled the trigger on Oswald, all he did was shoot the air and pushed Oswald into the river to protect him. Unknown to everyone, Jason was seen watching the whole thing from the rooftop of a building and Jason got angry when he saw that Oswald managed to swim to shore
Later, Barbara Kean, Gordon’s fiance, was socializing with Silver at a fancy restaurant for dinner. Silver revealed that Jason made jokes about his younger brother's lack of style, but Silver thought it was touching as Oswald rushed to her rescue. Barbara found out Silver was only dating Penguin for a publicity stunt. Gordon interrupted to warn Silver not to cross Oswald like this and asked to speak to Barbara in private. Gordon took Barbara outside and told her to pack a suitcase. Gordon took Barbara to a bus station and told her what happened with Oswald. Gordon wanted to look into why Calabrese wanted Oswald gone, why Calabrese couldn't get Loeb to deal with Oswald, and be certain that Oswald would keep his word. Barbara wanted to stay with Gordon and face the consequences with him on disobeying a powerful mobster, but Gordon refused and Barbara reluctantly listened to him. Despite being a by-the-book cop, Gordon would do anything to protect his fiance.
Tucker was pleased that Oswald finally had friends and took Oswald as well as Jason to have suits tailored for him in the Cobblepot Department Store. Tucker revealed to Oswald some devastating news: Tucker had a bad medical condition that Tucker described as a hole in his heart that was getting bigger. Because of this, Tucker made plans to leave half of the Cobblepot fortune to Oswald and the other half for Jason. But, Tucker was planning to sign over ownership of the Cobblepot empire to Oswald and a majority stake over to Jason. Tucker lacked confidence in Jason building his own endeavors while Oswald was more successful at it. Nevertheless, Tucker still loved Jason despite that and urged Jason as well as Oswald to be there for each other. Oswald agreed and Jason seemingly did, however, Jason was clenching his suit’s price tag in anger without anyone noticing since he didn't want his little brother to be running things.
At Silver’s party in her penthouse, Oswald, Jason, and Gordon arrived as guests. Gordon lied to Silver about Barbara having to leave town to tend to her sick mother. Gordon then became outraged upon seeing Oswald as one of the guests. Gordon walked Oswald to the street, where he furiously berated him for coming back. However, Oswald pleaded for Gordon to listen to him. Gordon demanded to know why Calabrese was after him in the first place only for Oswald to play the innocent fool. Gordon asked if Tucker was involved in anything illegal only for Oswald to angrily deny it. Oswald admitted to Gordon that he was planning to leave Gotham tonight but he only wanted to see Silver just to hand her a gold penguin as a gift. Taken aback, Gordon told Oswald that after giving Silver the gift, he was to leave Gotham since Calabrese would hunt down everyone Oswald loved. Oswald agreed but told Gordon to let him give Silver his gift, which Gordon allowed. Unfortunately, when Oswald was going to visit Silver, he overheard her and Jason talking about their bad joke. Oswald then left outraged at being played for a fool. Oswald felt immensely betrayed by his brother. In flashbacks, after Oswald was bullied by some girls for resembling a penguin at his prep school dance, Oswald attacked them by using his army of birds against them. The girls would later retaliate by breaking into Oswald’s storage where Oswald kept all his birds and beating Oswald, as well as his birds, up with baseball bats. After they left, Oswald decided to take the girls’ advice and stick to his birds. However, the last surviving bird bit Oswald prompting Oswald to kill it in retaliation. Oswald would later come to regret killing his bird and Jason would later arrive to provide him with warmth.
Oswald decided to leave with Gordon. Gordon then drove Oswald to a bus station in the countryside and gave him some money, warning him again which Oswald agreed. After Gordon left, Oswald began to plot his revenge on the people who wronged him.
Elsewhere, Tucker was becoming paranoid that Oswald wasn’t home. Jason assumed that Oswald was probably out late. Tucker was always paranoid that his children would end up like his father and Jason started to become curious about his family’s past as Tucker was being overwhelmed. Tucker Cobblepot was the son of very rich parents. Tucker’s father, Theodore, suffered from tendencies of violence and thoughts of malice. Theodore committed suicide in his room with his son standing outside the door. The experience left Tucker traumatized and Tucker’s mother told him never to speak of it. Jason fetched his father a bottle of rum assuring his father that Oswald will be home soon. Tucker agreed and felt he was being a worrywart. However, after drinking the wine, he died. Jason was revealed to have poisoned the rum that his father drank and as his father collapsed to the ground dead, Jason spilled the rum all over his father's lifeless body. Now Jason had to get rid of his little brother and change the will so that he can everything that should've been his from the start.
In his plot to seize power, Oswald arranged a meeting between himself and Tommy, a mob hitman for Sal Maroni, Calabrese’s rival. Tommy was hesitant at first, but Oswald assured him that if he brought Maroni the head of the Lion, he'd get first dibs on all contracts. Tommy agreed and tried to take a shot at Calabrese, however, Tommy realized his gun was empty when he attempted to shoot him. Calabrese then shot Tommy and realized it must have been Maroni, thus, declaring war on his rival. As the gang war was happening, Gordon and Bullock’s supervisor Sarah Essen urged all G.C.P.D. officers to remain on duty and work overtime. Oswald then returned home to discover his father had been poisoned. Oswald was devastated at this and at first, Oswald angrily blamed it on Calabrese. But when Oswald found poison in the kitchen's cabinets, Oswald got angry realizing that Jason did it.
In Essen's precinct, Gordon urged Bullock to assist the G.C.P.D. in the gang war by revealing that Moroni is too wild to run Gotham and multiple rivals will challenge his authority. Bullock told Gotham he was like him once, however, Commissioner Loeb, who was his lieutenant at the time, put a gun to his head and forced Bullock to gun down a rival mobster. Bullock left not before urging Gordon to leave Gotham since Gotham detests heroes. Essen took Calabrese into her precinct to hide him from Maroni. During the mob war, Commissioner Loeb switched sides by deciding to start treating Maroni as a king instead of Calabrese. Loeb arrived in Essen’s precinct with Maroni and his men to hand Calabrese over to them. Gordon asked if it was so they would kill Calabrese, but Loeb denied any knowledge of it. Gordon insulted Loeb and promised that if they both got out of this alive, he will either kill Loeb or put him behind bars. Loeb reminded all of the officers in Essen's precinct that they had families to feed. Because of this, most of the officers left the building while some stayed behind out of loyalty to Gordon, Bullock, and their lieutenant. Disappointed that his reminder partly failed, Loeb left with Maroni not before ordering Maroni's men to finish Calebrese and everyone off. This led to an epic gun battle in Sarah Essen's precinct.
While all this was taking place, Oswald and Jason were having dinner together in the Cobblepot mansion, Jason was pretending to grieve Tucker's death to Oswald, but Oswald played wise to his older brother's moves. Oswald revealed to Jason that he found the poisoned rum in the kitchen and that he knew Jason was helping Silver manipulate him since he overheard them at Silver's party. Jason tried to deny these things when Oswald was being accusatory, but Oswald starting growing more and more insane as Jason denied it. Oswald then started to scare Jason by revealing that he found the poison and laughed that Jason should've gotten rid of it. Jason tried to leave only for Oswald to start threatening him with a kitchen knife. Panicking, Jason started to call out to the servants for help only for Oswald to reveal that the servants will be unable to help him while taking a bite out of the meat that Oswald cooked for Jason. Thinking that Oswald killed all the servants and then cooked them into meat, Jason all of a sudden started vomiting in front of Oswald in shock.. But Oswald revealed it was actually duck meat that they ate and that Oswald just gave the servants the night off for privacy. After Jason finished vomiting, Oswald proceeded to stab his brother repeatedly with the kitchen knife in order to avenge their father's death.
In the present day, Oswald, now calling himself the Penguin, finished telling Silver his story. Silver apologized to Penguin, admitting she was actually growing fond of him. Penguin’s answer for becoming a monster was bitter but true: that society is to blame. Penguin then revealed that his manipulation is why the police are not focused on finding Silver and then proceeded to cut the rope of the cage. Because of that, the cage began to fall from the building eight-hundred stories down below the streets of Gotham, killing Silver. With Silver dead, Penguin left with another party to attend to. At the Tobacconists Club, Commissioner Loeb was meeting with the remaining mob bosses who survived Calabrese and Maroni's war, to agree to form a union in order to avoid war in the future, while still debating on who the new mob leader should be in Gotham City now that Maroni and Calabrese are gone because of the shootout in Essen's precinct. Oswald then arrived to announce himself as their new leader by reminding everyone that he is a Cobblepot, one of the founding families of Gotham with many resources to provide. A mob boss who was drunk mocked Oswald for looking like a penguin. Oswald then decided that he will be referred to by others as the Penguin, but he will not be mocked for it. While the drunk mobster continued laughing and being rude to Penguin, Penguin proceeded to shoot the drunk mobster with a bullet from his umbrella gun. Penguin then asked if anyone else wished to oppose and everyone reluctantly agreed to have Penguin be their new mob leader. To show his support, Loeb started to shake Penguin's hand to congratulate him, but Loeb became shocked to find he was holding someone's hand in his hand, which made Loeb uncomfortable.
Later in his father's old office in the Cobblepot's Department Store, Penguin was having some tea with Shark's rotting corpse to discuss their plans for the future of Gotham City. Penguin revealed to Shark's rotting corpse that he handed Jason's severed hand over to Loeb as a party gift since Jason and Loeb are both scum. Penguin then got enraged and spilled the hot tea from the teapot onto Shark's rotting corpse when he "heard" it insulting him. Breathing heavily, Penguin ordered his chauffeur and mob enforcer Lark to get rid of it. Penguin then looked down from the window as he saw buildings and cars on fire as well as a lot of property damage as a result of the mob war.
In the meantime, James Gordon was down there trying to deal with the damage as best as he could. While Bullock, unaware of Penguin's involvement, was blaming Maroni for all this, Essen, who was down there with Gordon, Bullock, and the rest of her men told Gordon to head on home for the night since Gordon was going to need his strength for tomorrow, which Gordon reluctantly agreed to when Bullock insisted on it. After finishing his tea, Penguin went up to the rooftop of his department store headquarters and started calling down to the people of Gotham that he was their new king, the new king of Gotham. Gordon heard Penguin chant that out loud from the streets and immediately deduced his involvement in Calabrese and Maroni's downfall. A lot of good men and women died, a lot of children were endangered, and so many lives were lost, all because of Oswald. Gordon then started to wonder whether sparing Oswald's life was the right call to make rather than following through with Calabrese's requests.
- Andy Serkis as Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin: The unstable heir to the Cobblepot fortune who begins a life of crime
- Paul Freeman as Tucker Cobblepot: The heartwarming father of Oswald and Jason Cobblepot.
- Jessica Simpson as Silver St. Cloud: A vain socialite who is Oswald's love interest.
- Armine Hammer as Jason Cobblepot: Oswald's football star brother, had a loving relationship with his brother but things changed when he discovered their father was planning to have his brother run the family business rather than him. He is one of the causes of his brother's rise to villainy.
- Tom Hulce as Rex 'the Lion' Calabrese: A powerful gangster who comes into conflict with Oswald.
- Wyatt Nash as Detective James 'Jim' Gordon: A rookie detective in the G.C.P.D. who formerly served in the marines and always tries to do the right thing, but is faced with issues.
- James Woods as Salvatore Sal Maroni: Another powerful mobster who wishes to claim the throne from Calabrese as ruler of Gotham's underworld.
- Michelle Rodrigeuz as Lieutenant Sarah Essen: A clean captain in the G.C.P.D. who keeps the other officers in line, leads her into conflict with her superiors.
- Peter Scolari as Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb: a corrupt police commissioner who wishes to "correct " Lieutenant Essen and the officers she keeps in line.
- Wayne Knight as Detective Bullock: A seasoned and no-nonsense detective with a tragic past. Harvey has seen the worse in Gotham and doesn’t see any hope in fighting for a better future.
- Jennifer Morrison as Barbara Eileen Gordon: A beautiful All-American medical doctor who has been with Gordon for years. Barbara supports him in his quest to fix Gotham, but also seeks to be an inspiration of hope on her own.
For the most part, the movie was greatly received. Rotten Tomatoes gave it and 89%, higher than Batman vs. Superman. Other critics gave similar ratings, most being 8/10s and 9/10s. The movie was highly liked for it's a detailed story of Oswald Cobblepot and special effects. DC Comic fans were somewhat disappointed for the reasons of Bruce Wayne not being introduced. Warner Bros stated: "this is not a Batman movie, it is about a man's sudden rise to power in the criminal underworld. Bruce Wayne is still growing up in these parts of Gotham." Casting choices were also questioned. "The casting fit perfectly, a favored touch I personally liked that was made by Warner Bros." Casting Director Todd Phillips said.