[28 July 2010]
I can’t say that I had high expectations for Scott Perry’s low-budget western, Six Gun, but I did entertain certain hopes. The premise is promising.
An aging bounty hunter, driven by necessity, comes out of retirement for one last job, returning to the life that he has forsaken. That’s the foundation of Unforgiven, and Unforgiven is amazing. However, my hopes were tempered by the PG-13 rating. Is it possible to appropriately tell a good, violent tale without an R rating? Granted, Live Free or Die Hard was PG-13 and still managed to kick a lot of ass, but I’m firmly in the camp that believes it would have been even better with a hard R—and the liberty of the storytelling that rating implies.
Tommy Hill (played by Tommy Hill, and no I’m not kidding about that) is a bounty hunter turned rancher. Much like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, Hill met a woman who tempered his wild ways and convinced him to settle down into a domestic life on a Texas ranch. His wife has since died, and all Hill can do to cope with the pain is drink himself into a stupor. He is so drunk in fact that he is about to lose his ranch.
Lucky for him his old buddy Red (Tom Adkins) shows up with a proposition. A trio of cowboys stole some money, they were then murdered and had the money stolen from them, so now Red suggests that he and Hill go steal the money a third time from the guy who stole it the second time.
Hill and Red, accompanied by Hill’s Japan obsessed ranch hand, Will (William Wise), and smart-ass German, Gunter (Michael Hankin), set out on their mission. Problems arise because the money ultimately belongs to Big Jake (Robert Graham), a small town despot with an extensive crew of henchmen. As you already imagined, everything devolves into chaos that spirals out of control. If watching movies has taught you anything, it’s that the ol’ “one last job” turns out to never be as easy as one hoped for.
Six Gun owes a great deal to Unforgiven. So much so that you can go down the line and pick out which character from Six Gun is which from Unforgiven. For example, Big Jake in Six Gun is obviously Little Bill, Gene Hackman’s character in Unforgiven, even down to the mannerisms and speech patterns.
The story is poorly structured, and drags on and on. Some movies have a slow, deliberate pace that is intentional and adds to the film. Six Gun is not one of those. It feels like there’s not always enough plot to fill the time, so the filmmakers insert things like a needlessly long montage of the core players riding through the wilderness. On top of that, it’s not edited particularly well, to the point where scenes feel misplaced, as if they should have come earlier, like the first act instead of the third.
A number of threads are brought into the fray only to be summarily dispatched with minimal effort. Hill gets over his dead wife when he meets Violet (Sue Rock), one of Jake’s prostitutes. He stops drinking and explains his actions with a single line, “I’m not drinking until this is over”, that is never questioned or dealt in any greater depth.
His son is shot, but he doesn’t seem to care beyond a cursory, “you shot my son, you bastard” moment. All in all there is too much talking and not enough shooting, which is somewhat surprising considering that there is little to no characterization, and that you never connect with, or care about anyone in Six Gun.
I’m going to give something away here, so, if you don’t want to know about the ending, skip this part. Jake, Big Jake, the bad guy, is killed before the climactic battle. I’ll say that again in case you missed it the first time. The antagonist dies before the climax. That is just wrong on so many levels. So when a gun battle erupts at the end, there is nothing at stake. This is one of the absolute worst storytelling decisions I’ve ever seen in a motion picture—and I have watched some dubious films.
The DVD includes a collection of stories from the set. These are audio tracks of cast and crew reminiscing over their time filming Six Gun. From these clips you get a great feel of fun. While the budget may have been miniscule and without frills, there is a sense of great camaraderie and joy from the set. Everyone became friends and had a good time making this movie. There are tales of a chupacabra sighting, as well as stories of uncooperative animal actors, and everything in between.
There’s also a commentary track with director Scott Perry. If you have an interest in making a film with a negligible amount of money (the budget was well below $100,000), Perry offers quite a bit of practical advice. Most of what he has to say is interesting, a little dry at times, but it’s as engaging as a guy talking in a monotone about his movie can be.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/128643-six-gun/