“Gangster Squad” release postponed – good taste or overreaction?

 

In a reaction to Friday’s tragic events at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, word has it that Warner Brothers will be postponing the September 2012 release of their 40s and 50s set crime drama, “Gangster Squad” to January 2013.  Anybody who’s seen the Jay-Z scored trailer for the film may remember the bit where a cinema audience is gunned down by merciless criminals and realise quickly that this sequence now has as much chance of remaining in the movie as a scene in “The Expendables 2” where everybody sits around and discusses their feelings.

Whilst I understand the reticence to include any scene which reminds a potential audience of the shooting deaths in Colorado, it occurs to me that this delay is due less to any sudden attack of conscience than a desire to maximise the box office potential of the film by excising any particularly troublesome elements lest they be ceased upon by a media eager to jump on any potential controversy and run it into the ground.

Going back to the trailer – linked here (it features the scene now being excised from the film, so approach with caution if you’re sensitive to this kind of imagery) – it’s hard to see how taking one arguably contentious scene will do much to alter the tone of the film, which seems to revolve largely around sexy guys in stylish period attire punching, shooting and shagging their way across a lawless 40s Los Angeles.  Taking out one scene which has unfortunate echoes in real-life events hardly changes the fact that much of their trailer promises the likes of It Boy Ryan Gosling shooting slightly less handsome people in the face in the name of ne0-frontier justice, after all.

I confess, I find Warner Brothers’ knee-jerk desire to pull scenes from their film to be entirely disingenuous and quite insulting – they greenlit this film, after all, and let director Ruben “Zombieland” Fleischer do his thing.  Did they somehow not read the script?  Are they suddenly surprised to have a film on their hands which has Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin‘s heroic off-the-books cops brutally murdering gangsters?  This is, I take it, the same Warner Brothers who built much of their early success on gangster flicks and lurid crime dramas?

In the end, it’s all about cash, not caring about the sensibilities of victims of atrocity.  Controversy sometimes equals full tills, but just as often induces people to avoid your product because it offends some weird moral sensibility which gets uptight about violence in films but sees no problem at all in having a gun (or two) in the house.  As ever we see that popular culture is the real villain in cases like this, not the ease of purchasing high-powered firearms and ammunition for any sociopathic nut-job with a psychotic manifesto and a nihilistic worldview.

 

 

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3 Comments

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3 responses to ““Gangster Squad” release postponed – good taste or overreaction?

  1. I can see it from both sides but in the end, I can see why WB would make this call. Hopefully the film doesn’t suffer as a result and will be intact for the home release.

    • I agree with you, Andy – Warner Brothers are not psychic and couldn’t imagine that a prime piece of their Autumn release slate would have unintended connotations thanks to the acts of an unhinged criminal.

      Is it fair, though, to ask them questions about the way that they’ve marketed the film to date? Violence is sexy and cool until reality reminds us that it really isn’t?

      • Yeah, very fair point. You also have to wonder how long studios waited before releasing war films…Oh wait, they didn’t. Like I said, I can see it from both sides and I can certainly see how this would hit too close to home to be considered OK, but you’re absolutely right in that violence is violence no matter how you slice it.

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