The Pros and Cons of Altering 'Gangster Squad' Before Release

The Pros and Cons of Altering 'Gangster Squad' Before Release

Jul 25, 2012

If you have any movie freaks on your Twitter feed, you probably know by now that Warner Bros. is treading pretty lightly regarding their upcoming action movie Gangster Squad. The trailer, you may recall, features a sequence in which a group of men open fire in a crowded movie theater -- and that's not exactly something the world wants to see right now. The film was supposed to arrive in theaters on September 7, and now there's talk of it being delayed till January, 2013. There's also been chatter about them reshooting parts of the movie in order to remove the controversial scene. 

Should they remove it? Should they just delay it? Should they do nothing? There are definitely some pros and cons to weigh here.

My first reaction was almost venomously cynical, but tempers and opinions have run pretty high since the horrible events of last Friday, so perhaps I can be forgiven. But after a few conversations with some very smart people, I've come to the maddening conclusion that Warner Bros. is now trapped in a winless cycle, the textbook definition of damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Let's be honest here: movie producers want attention for their project, even if that attention may sometimes come straight from the front pages of the daily newspaper -- but nobody wants this kind of publicity. Here's what it boils down to: if WB and the Gangster Squad producers decide to remove the scene, they'll be called craven, cowardly and an affront to all that is artistic about the medium of cinema. If they keep the scene where it is, a lot of people will savage the filmmakers for being ghoulish, tacky and opportunistic. 

The super-cynical producer would say "keep the scene in because, hey, it will sell more tickets," and the ultra-cautious one would probably vote to remove the "cinema slaughter" sequence and burn the negative. A pragmatist would simply suggest that Warner Bros. delay the film for a while (which they already have) and see how things feel in a month or two. The part of me that's a film "purist" says leave the film alone; the guy who knows how the world actually works can see why the scene should be tossed out.

Obviously I don't have "the" answer, so I threw the question out to twitter: "Would WB be wrong to remove the 'cinema gunfire' sequence from Gangster Squad?" 

"It's too reactionary. A delayed release is respectful enough." -- Hannah S.

"They will be crucified by the media if they don't (remove it). Some film fans will question artistic integrity." -- Aaronthenia

"I'd rather they delay the film than compromise it for all time." -- James Moran

"The scene and film were made before the Aurora shooting, so the idea that their inclusion is insensitive makes no sense." -- Brian J. Roan

"I wouldn't know without seeing the film." -- Keith Calder

Bottom line: This sequence represents a no-win situation for the distributor, and while these new changes may indeed damage the final film, we simply won't be able to tell until it hits theaters next year. At the very least, and at risk of sounding cynical, perhaps we'll see the sequence again, down the road, on a DVD release, after some time has passed and we're able to look at the Aurora murders with a little more objectivity.

What do you think they should do?

Note: This trailer does not include the scene in question.

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