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The Gunslingers

Director: Adam Oxsen
Cast: John Elliot, Narisa Suzuki, Ben Hall

(US theatrical: 16 Nov 2010)

This movie looks like it was shot on home video camera, and not a late model one, but one of those massive, shoulder mounted monsters from the late-‘80s, and recorded on a recycled VHS tape over a family wedding or graduation.  Sure The Gunslingers is an underfunded venture, but nothing about it looks even remotely authentic.  Nothing about any of the characters makes you believe, even for a second, that these are denizens of the old West, have been riding the trail, or have even spent much time outside sleeping in the dirt. 


Their plight isn’t helped at all by the acting, either.  Questionable accents, overacting, and wooden deliveries abound, and you get a good look at every stumbled over syllable and expressionless face since it seems like roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of the film is shot in jittery extreme close ups. 


The plot is thin and painfully obvious.  Butch (John Elliot) is a bounty hunter, Akemi (Narisa Suzuki) is a Japanese prostitute out for revenge, Mondego (Ben Hall) is a badguy whom you’re supposed to equate with the devil, and there is a treasure map.  The pace drags and drags and drags along.  There is an overly long, mostly slow motion scene of Akemi staggering across the desert that starts, stops, then starts again no less than three times. 


In nearly every scene in the middle portion of The Gunslingers, there is a moment where the characters feel the need to talk about what has already happened—what they just experience, and what you just watched on screen—an affectation that makes each scene go on forever.  What this film really needs is an editor to trim the fat and focus the story, but if that happened the whole thing would time out somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-minutes.


Full of genre clichés, cliché’s that still manage to miss the mark, The Gunslingers has no tension, little causal relationship between events, no emotional investment, and little in it’s favor, unless you’re interested in seeing a pair of idiot brothers play strip poker with each other.


Looking at the DVD box it appears that The Gunslingers comes with a decent enough collection of bonus features, though none of them are particularly enthralling.  There’s an alternate opening that’s not any better, just different.  The bulk of the extras are spent comparing the film to the storyboards, and then contrasting the finished version of the climactic scene to the pre-effects, green screen footage.  Initially that sounds like it could be interesting, and from the description you anticipate that there will be some discussion of shooting an effects heavy sequence on a shoestring budget. Alas, the reality is 12-minutes of the scene playing out along side the unfinished footage.  It’s the exact same thing, only on one side of your TV there is green behind the actors, while on the other there is a computer generated cave behind them.

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Brent McKnight lives in Seattle, and is working feverishly to finish his degree in creative writing through the University of New Orleans Low-Residency MFA Program. His thesis is a post-apocalyptic, zombie, spaghetti western, much to the chagrin of most of his advisors. He likes dogs, beards, and Steven Seagal, and rants about movies at thelastthingisee.blogspot.com and BeyondHollywood.com. Recently he fulfilled a lifelong goal, appearing as an extra in a zombie movie.


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