Movie Review: Mean Guns

Posted: March 2, 2011 in Movie Review, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Movie Review: Mean Guns

Mean Guns (1997/ Dir. Albert Pyun)

We haven’t talked about a good old fashioned bad movie in a while, and this is close to as bad as they come while still being enjoyable. Oh yes, this movie is enjoyable, but it’s terrible. You don’t watch it for the fine performances or the sparkling dialogue, you watch it because you’re fascinated that this sort of thing got made despite the fact that clearly no one much cared about the end product. It’s also interesting to see how far some people have fallen. This was shown as an HBO original movie, and it’s not even a very good one, but it has some names that people would recognize like Ice T and Christopher Lambert. They’re okay in this movie, but they cover the range of performances for actors who are just picking up a paycheck. Ice is chewing the scenery and Lambert is half asleep. Still, the movie is fun, but for all the wrong reasons.

I’m strangely disapproving of you.

The movie wants to be deep and insightful, but it’s not. There is a lot of talking around the gun play, talking which tries to ape the sort of style that some of the indie films of the time were playing. You can tell that this wants to try and make some sort of statement, but it doesn’t really know what kind of statement it wants to make. There are a lot of references to religious themes, but they’re so ham fisted and clumsy that it only serves to annoy. As an action movie, it also fails to work. Most the time, you never actually see a gun fire, just someone pointing a gun out of frame and their arm jerk. The rest of the action isn’t much better. The editing makes it pretty clear that they’re covering up for poorly staged and minimally choreographed fight scenes. So it fails as a thought provoking pulp movie, and it fails on the dumb action movie front as well. However, it’s one of those interesting failures that’s actually sort of fun to watch.

This is my first time I’ve done video dating and I’m a little nervous.

It occurs to me that I’ve gone two paragraphs and I still haven’t actually described the movie to you. This isn’t because I feel the movie is so well known, it’s because there isn’t much of a plot here. Ice T plays Vincent Moon, a man who works for something called The Syndicate. I’m guessing The Syndicate is some sort of organized crime outfit, but they never really say to be honest. It could just be that we’re talking about another name for Apple Computers here. In fact, let’s go with that, Ice T plays Steve Jobs. Anyway, for various reasons Apple has decided that it needs to get rid of everyone who ever crossed them. Because this is Apple, you can’t just shoot everyone and put them in a pit somewhere. Simple and user friendly aren’t part of the game plan, so Jobs decides instead to host a game at their new headquarters or a prison or something. The location is a real prison that was built in LA, but hadn’t opened when they filmed this. Everyone involved is part of the Apple Crime Syndicate, some of them are responsible for the Lisa, others for the hockey puck mouse, some helped Microsoft copy OSX Ocelot for Windows Longhorn or whatever. The point is, each of them has committed a sin and must be removed. So, Jobs has this game. The rules are simple, kill or be killed. The last three left alive at the end of the day get to split $10 million in cash and run away. That is the plot, and it doesn’t take too long for them to get to explain it. Once explained, they throw in a bunch of guns, bullets and baseball bats and allow the party to rock itself.

Soooo, yeah. At one point a guy wear’s a mustache made of black construction paper. Mark of quality, that is.

We follow two groups through the movie, even though they don’t start that way. You’ve got Christopher Lambert, who manages not to say “There can be only one” through a force of will that can move mountains and his group. In his group is a female assassin named D, an accountant named Kim and a mystery hitman named Marcus. We don’t really know much about these four, and we won’t find out much as we go along. We’ll learn a little about Lambert’s character, but not enough to care if he lives or dies. Lambert’s character, named Lou, is a complete lunatic. He also happens to be one of the touches of real fun. It’s like Lambert knew no one would ever watch this so he might as well see if he could combine a low key performance with the character who was clearly written to be manic and excitable. Strangely, it almost works. Almost.

For a moment, he saw his future, and it was Highlander EndgameCRAP!

Then you’ve got to guys who call each other Hoss and Crow after the characters in The Tooth of Crime, which only seems pretentious because it is. We don’t learn much about them, but the two actors manage to bring at least a little humanity and believability to their characters. About half way through the movie, they meet up with the main bit of eye candy in the form of Barbie. Again, she’s far more interesting than anyone in Lou’s group. Barbie plays Hoss against Crow by exploiting his attraction to him. All in all, Hoss and Crow’s team is more interesting, but you know from the start that they’re not gonna make it. The whole movie has a sense of inevitability from the start. You know who the baddest are going to turn out to be before the opening credits. Oh yeah, spoiler, as bunch of characters you don’t know and will forget the moment they’re off screen die in this movie.

Okay baby! Roll play night has gotten a little out of hand. I’m gonna go ahead and say “starfish” now.

The movie wants to cast allusions towards Spaghetti Westerns, Film Noir, Religious Symbolism, and the quirkiness of the 90s. Sadly, it doesn’t really work that well. While there are guitars playing western style strains, and people sitting around talking about.. you know… stuff, it just falls flat. While the mambo music is good as music, it doesn’t do much for this movie and makes it feel like a cynical attempt to be quirky. The religious aspects of the story really stick out like a badly contrived sore thumb. There are constant references to sin, redemption and other such things. The place is called Purgatory and is protected by the Cerberus security system. To cap it, the whole thing is being watched by the Lucifer Command Center. I think the seven characters we see are supposed to represent each of the seven sins, but the performances along with some really sloppy directing and choppy editing scuttle that idea.

I love this show. I tell ya, that Beiber kid has got something there.

A bit that just doesn’t make any sense at all is the little girl. Lou brings his daughter and leaves her in the car while he plays the game. Just about everyone seems to make their way out to Lou’s car to conclave with the little girl at one point or another. It doesn’t even make much sense when Steve Jobs comes out and talks to Lucy about his platinum teeth. The girls is supposed to be the single innocent, or a messenger from God, or possibly God. I’m not sure, she’s totally lacking of any kind of personality and never says much of anything in context besides asking Marcus to kill Lou because he’s a creep. She’s right, but asking him to “Kill that creep for me” is outside the bounds of this character’s set up.

She had never seen a man do that with a watermelon before.

Finally, the movie is just sort of ugly. I’m not sure they used any lights besides the fluorescents in the building, because the whole thing has a disgusting blue tint and everyone looks horribly pallid. They all look sick really, which just adds to the ugliness of this movie. The cinematography is artless, the action scenes are sort of languid and the whole thing looks like it’s trying to imitate something better without understanding why those better things were good. This is a movie that gives you every reason to turn away in disgust and watch something else.

So, that’s the beginning and ending of my film career, isn’t it?

AND YET! And yet, I find myself watching this thing about once a year or so. I know it’s terrible, and I know all the reasons it’s terrible, but I come back every once in a while and watch it again. There’s something wonderful in this pretentious, uninteresting, senseless garbage. It’s like a McDonald’s Hamburger, you know you shouldn’t and you probably avoid it most the time, but every once in a while you just can’t help it and need to subject your system to some junk food. That’s this movie, it’s a bit of junk food, and while I know all the reasons that it’s bad, it still tastes so good. You can buy Mean Guns on Amazon, or you can watch the whole thing on YouTube because Lionsgate posted the whole movie as one file there.

Official Score:
39 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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