Home > Film & stuff > The Controversy Over “Gangster Squad” (WARNING: Clip Below Contains Disturbing Content… But Will the Film?)

The Controversy Over “Gangster Squad” (WARNING: Clip Below Contains Disturbing Content… But Will the Film?)

(UPDATE July 24th– the original trailer I posted for Gangster Squad on YouTube has been removed, so I’ve replaced it with another source, but there’s no saying how long it will be available)

The horrendous shooting during the screening for The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora has predictably spawned a great deal of debate, frequently mixed with outrage and finger-pointing. Issues like gun control, the justice system, and the media’s role after such tragedies have all sprung to the forefront. Another story involving a seemingly unrelated film called Gangster Squad has also been roped into the dialogue. The Warner Bros. film directed by Ruben Fleischer (helmer of Zombieland and the dreadful 30 Minutes or Less) stars Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and many other impressive actors in a period piece about L.A. mobster Mickey Cohen. The trailer above features a scene in which men with Tommy guns shoot up a movie theater. The same trailer was supposed to play in front of all screenings of The Dark Knight Rises. Understandably, Warner Bros. did their best to pull the preview from theaters (though I understand some showings of the Batman film did include the Gangster Squad footage upfront).

Removing the preview is understandable considering how fresh the shooting was in the minds of theater patrons. It now seems, however, that Warner Bros. is choosing to completely cut the theater scene and replace it with something that isn’t so reminiscent of the Aurora massacre– Variety’s article does not include confirmation from the studio about the editing/re-shoots, but it certainly seems to be happening.

This little bit of controversy is certainly not the most important story that has come out of this atrocity, but it is worth analyzing. Gangster Squad has been shot and is set to be released on September 7th. If these edits go forward and the film is released without the original footage, I’m not sure that’s the best idea in the long run. I appreciate the sentiment and the respect toward the victims. As I said earlier, I think pulling the trailer from The Dark Knight Rises showings was a wise decision and the respectful thing to do, but altering a completed film over this shooting spree is not the way to move forward. By respecting the victims and their families by removing the scene,  the studio would effectively censor a piece of art and bend to the will of a worthless killer who (allegedly– for legal reasons) murdered 12 innocent people and injured dozens of others. Cutting footage from Gangster Squad is a bit of a slippery slope and I believe it’s a step in the wrong direction.

What would an edited Gangster Squad represent? To many, it wouldn’t even matter. They’d watch the edited cut and never know that the original film was supposed to contain a scene of gunfire in a movie house. To those who do know the story and who also remember the shooting in Aurora, the edited film is evidence of something tragic. An edited Gangster Squad would become a sort of historical document that gives acknowledgment to a mass murderer who wants desperately to be known and remembered (similarly to the Virginia Tech shooting a few years back, our sensationalistic news media is doing a good job of promoting the alleged shooter).

If Gangster Squad is re-cut and re-shot, it will be tainted as that movie. People will talk about “that movie that was edited because of that Colorado shooter.” That shouldn’t happen. The sick son of a bitch who took 12 innocent lives deserves nothing special from Warner Bros., the media, or our judicial system. This piece of shit deserves to be treated like the trash that he is and no efforts should be made to kowtow to his will. He wants a legacy. He wants his fingerprints all over the fabric of our society. I hope Warner Bros. sees the bigger picture at stake here and moves ahead with their film as planned.

I may be wrong and there are probably many surviving family members of people who died in the theater in the early morning of July 20th who would disagree with me, but there’s something important at stake here that goes beyond sensitivity. It will take resolve and they may flirt with outrage from various groups, but Warner Bros. would be wise to hold their ground and move ahead as planned.

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