Delayed 'Gangster Squad' still packs plenty of heat

05:00 AM, Jan 09, 2013

'Gangster Squad' stars Ryan Gosling, left, Emma Stone and Josh Brolin and is directed by Ruben Fleischer. John Shearer, Invision, via AP/


Written By by Susan Wloszczyna, USA TODAY

Ruben Fleischer was in the shower on July 20 when he found out about the shootings at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises inside an Aurora, Colo., multiplex that left 12 dead and 57 injured.

The Zombieland director received a call from Warner Bros. alerting him that trailers of his upcoming film, Gangster Squad, would have to be pulled. The reason: The preview for the action drama about real-life mobster Mickey Cohen’s attempt to build a crime empire in 1949 Los Angeles featured a Tommy guns-a-blazing shootout inside of the landmark Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

The sequence would also have to be excised from the completed film and a new location found for the plot-important ambush, causing Gangster Squad’s opening date to be delayed from Sept. 7 to this Friday. “I knew instantly we had to take responsibility of removing the scene out of respect for the tragedy,” Fleischer says.

The setting is now Chinatown. “It is a touristy place, with an iconic gate and plenty of neon,” says the director, who appreciates the connection to Roman Polanski’s 1974 noir classic Chinatown. “All the buildings are period. We were really lucky to shoot there.”

The much-anticipated title, starring Sean Penn as Cohen and Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin as part of an elite team of cops on his tail, is the first arrival among five major releases from last year that were pushed into 2013: action sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation;The Great Gatsby, headlined by Leonardo DiCaprio; the Brad Pitt zombie epic World War Z; and the sci-fi-themed Gravity with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.

Everything from script rewrites to complicated effects were behind those holdovers. But Squad is the only one directly affected by actual headlines.

Fingers crossed,” says Fleischer about whether filmgoers will rally around the R-rated movie that still boasts plenty of gunfire — along with brutal fisticuffs and Cohen-wrought sadism — especially since the debate over firearms continues after last month’s Newtown, Conn., school attack.

The director believes the graphic mayhem that remains is justified. “If you go to a gangster movie, there is an expectation of shootouts and violence,” he explains. “But it is a fun action movie, an audience-friendly movie. I wanted to do a 21st-century version of a gangster film. It has classic themes but a modern quality.”

Considering that ticket buyers didn’t shy away from the horror flick Texas Chainsaw 3D or Quentin Tarantino’s blood-splattered Django Unchained, the No. 1 and 2 movies at the box office last weekend, violent entertainment continues to be popular.

The success of those films, says box-office tracker Paul Dergarabedian of Hollywood.com, “proves that audiences can clearly distinguish between reality and the fantasy world of movies.”