In what could be considered an attempt at tasteful discretion, publicity damage control or possibly just a kneejerk reaction to the fatal shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, Warner Bros. announced today that they are planning to remove a sequence from their upcoming period crime drama Gangster Squad, which depicted a similar depiction of violence in a Los Angeles theater.
Warner Bros. had already pulled trailers for Gangster Squad that depicted parts of the sequence, in which criminals shot at an audience from behind a movie screen, a moment similar to – albeit broader than – a sequence from Alfred Hitchcock's 1942 thriller Saboteur. Now Variety reports that the scene will be removed from Gangster Squad entirely, forcing the filmmakers to come up with a replacement for the key sequence before the film's release date on September 7, 2012, which has not been pushed back, at least as of this writing.
Similar issues were raised in the aftermath of 9/11, during which many films were scuttled altogether (like Nosebleed, a proposed action-comedy starring Jackie Chan as a window washer working at the World Trade Center) and others were altered in post-production to remove the Twin Towers from establishing shots of New York City.
The recent development raises questions about the necessity of reshooting a film like Gangster Squad, and whether simply pushing back the release would have been preferable to compromising the filmmakers' artistic vision. Gangster Squad boasts a cast consisting of award season regulars, including Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Nick Nolte, implying that it's not a mere cash grab for the studio but rather a film in which the studio had great confidence.
Removing the trailers from theaters which could have potentially placed the promotions in front of screenings for The Dark Knight Rises makes sense, particularly on the weekend of release, but is forcing reshoots on a film that could instead have easily have been delayed really the appropriate action for a studio to take? It's a difficult position for the studio to make, certainly, but we're not entirely sure they've made the right one. Then again we haven't seen Gangster Squad yet. Maybe it won't be a big deal in the long run. Then again, maybe it will hurt or ruin the motion picture. Seems like a dangerous risk to take, from a dramatic perspective.
What do you think of Warner Bros. decision? Does the practical gain of avoiding negative publicity for the potential awards season contender outweigh the risk of potentially damaging the quality of the motion picture, whether or not we know if it's any good in the first place? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
CraveOnline will be back with more Gangster Squad news after we pull copies of Cecil B. Demented from the shelves while we're at it.