Is it ever an appropriate time to release a violent film? That is the question Warner Brothers is being forced to ponder with their latest movie, Gangster Squad.
Currently set for release in January 2013, the movie tells the story of six LAPD detectives that use their own brand of lead-laden justice to keep the mafia from taking over 1940s Los Angeles. The neo-noire film features an all-star cast including Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone, Sean Penn, and Nick Nolte
Unfortunately, the movie finds itself in a precarious position. Originally slated for a September 2012 debut, the film’s release was pushed back after the Aurora shooting, where a lone gunman killed 12 people and injured 59 others during a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight. Warner Bros. had then delayed, limited, and cancelled its promotion of The Dark Knight in several key areas. Also, because of a scene in Gangster Squad that involved a theater shooting, the company delayed the release of the film.
Now, once again nearing release, Gangster Squad finds itself in the wake of another national tragedy involving the criminal use of firearms. While there have been no reports regarding whether the film will once again delay its release, the question now becomes whether Warner Bros. should be expected to take action.
As a story that places a somewhat legalized killing organization in the protagonist role, the film does cause some concern. There’s nothing wrong with the police keeping the streets safe. In fact, it is their job and citizens should be thankful to the men and women that risk their lives to maintain law and order. However, the specific squad that Gangster Squad highlights was responsible for numerous extra-judicial killings and the fiasco of the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders. So, when the nation is reeling from two major outbreaks of violence, is it really the ideal time to release a movie about a group of Dirty Harry’s?
Yes, yes it is.
While many have been quick to label the media as the party responsible for the shootings, it Hollywood has often chastised violence just as severely. Consider No Country for Old Men and Fargo by the Coen Brothers, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling or Viggo Mortensen’s A History of Violence; all of these films highlight the atrocities of crime in a manner that should be embraced. If we simply apply an umbrella term and say that all movies depicting violence are bad, we will overlook the works that show us just how bad it really is.
Granted, there are movies that stylize violence and represent it as a solution to all of life’s problems (Dirty Harry a prime example), but an entire industry shouldn’t be labeled evil because of individual works.
Ironically, in wake of the Aurora theater shootings, Warner Bros. had also delayed the release of the comic Batman Incorporated #3, which involves a scene reminiscent of a school shooting. Now, in the wake of an actual school shooting, the company is nearing the release of a movie that has a scene reminiscent of a theater shooting.
Personally, I think good movies act as a statement against violence rather than for it, so the question isn’t whether the film should be released. The question is whether Gangster Squad romanticizes violence or condemns it. If it is indeed a denunciation of violence, then we need this movie now more than ever. If it is a glorification, however, then we don’t need a movie like this ever.