[UPDATE: Warner Bros. is now eying a January 2013 release date for Gangster Squad.]

Warner Bros. has wasted no time with damage control in response to last week’s horrific Colorado shooting, which took place during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. The studio has already pulled trailers for Gangster Squad from theaters, which teased one of the film’s signature set pieces: a behind-the-screen shootout at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

The studio is debating its next move with Ruben Fleischer’s crime drama – which, it ought to mentioned, is a romanticized treatment of real-life events. While a release delay for Gangster Squad seems like a must (for the sake of sensitivity), Warner Bros. could take additional steps with its response.

Gangster Squad embellishes the efforts of the LAPD to take down Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) during the 1940s, with a star-studded cast that includes Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena, Robert Patrick, and Nick Nolte. It’s a violent tale of cops and criminals, based on events chronicled in Paul Lieberman’s “Tales From the Gangster Squad.”

Warner Bros. heads are giving thought to just recutting Gangster Squad so the theater sequence is either significantly reduced or removed altogether, according to Company Town’s sources – who also say the moment plays a pivotal role in the narrative proceedings of Fleischer’s movie. Variety is reporting that Warner Bros. has already decided to remove the scene and “is putting reshoot plans into motion.”

Sean Penn in 'Gangster Squad'

Most of the volatile content in Gangster Squad boils down to standard material for the Noir genre. The problem with the aforementioned theater sequence is that fails to qualify as customary content for this sort of film, and its inclusion could prompt accusations that Warner Bros. is exploiting the emotional fallout from the Colorado event (regardless of whether that’s the intention or not).

It doesn’t help that the theater showdown is one of the plot elements in Gangster Squad which is not based on a historical event, and qualifies as Hollywood (violent) fantasy. That’s not to say it’s inconsequential to the story – or that removing it will not compromise the artistic integrity of the final film. It just means that Warner Bros. has a difficult decision to make about how drastic a course of action to take, no matter what.

Keep your eyes peeled for an official update on the Gangster Squad situation – and don’t be surprised if the film gets bumped back from a planned September release date.

Source: LA Times, Variety