• Sean Penn in Gangster Squad

I’m away in Los Angeles, and for the past ten days I’ve been driving around under giant billboards counting down the days until joy returns to the land with Ruben Fleischer’s Gangster Squad. It’s the sort of frantic, out-of-proportion PR blitz that ensues when moviemakers realize they have a serious problem—in this case, that their brain-dead celebration of machine gun fire debuts amid a national debate on automatic weapons. Gangster Squad already has a history of being outflanked by events: the original release date was pushed back, and the movie recut, after the July 20 massacre at a multiplex in Aurora, Colorado, cast an unfortunate light on the movie’s scene of characters firing from behind a movie screen into the audience. It’s a pretty potent symbol for the debate that will (or should) ensue in the wake of the latest bloodbath: whether movies can kill.