American Gun
R1 - America - Genius Products
Review written by and copyright: Tom Williams & Noor Razzak (22nd October 2006).
The Film

Aric Avelino's directorial debut, "American Gun", is an attempt to do what so many filmmakers wish: to speak out on an issue, changing minds or informing, shedding light on dark areas. It is a shame that "American Gun" is not more successful, as it generally comes across as directionless, failing to convey its tagline message that firing a gun shatters more than silence.
In the style of movies like " Crash" (2004), or "Magnolia" (1999), "American Gun" follows several separate story threads that intertwine- though, it must be said, to a lesser extent than those films. Marcia Gay Haden plays the mother of a boy who took part in a Columbine-style assault on his school who now has to deal not only with the hostility of parents around her but also her other son, now marked by the shadow of his brother's actions. Forest Whitaker's character is the principal of an inner-city school who has become so consumed by protecting his school and his students that his relationship with his wife (Garcelle Beauvais) and son is suffering. The daily struggle to keep his campus safe hasn't prevented one of his better students, who lives in a dangerous neighbourhood, from acquiring a gun to protect himself- especially during the night job he has taken on to support his family. Linda Cardellini is a college student working in a gun shop owned by her grandfather (Donald Sutherland) who is struggling to find her place in life, and Tony Goldwyn is a police officer forced to confront his feelings as one of the officers criticised for not doing more to prevent the school shooting tragedy.
The major problem with the movie is that a synopsis fills you in on almost everything you need you know about the content of the film. There are few compelling scenes, whether we focus on action or emotion, and the characters are so one-dimensional that their names barely matter- within the confines of the film, they matter only insofar as their thoughts about firearms exist. To a certain degree, this is the point- Avelino clearly wishes to portray a series of stories that speak for themselves. However, the film ultimately feels impersonal, as if too much has been contrived in order to make a point. By and large, the actors perform adequately, and Whitaker's performance is excellent- although this might be the result of receiving a role with far more substance to it than many of the other capable actors in the film. His character comes off as noble, but human- someone with the best of intentions who is inevitably worn down by the magnitude of the task in front of him. Nobody could walk away from the task of keeping children safe, and yet it is too much of a burden for him to shoulder.
By and large, the other characters are simply not compelling. Their stories, or settings, are interesting enough, but barring one or two moments of genuine pathos, very little happens that is worth the setup. The climactic interchange between Cardellini and Sutherland is noteworthy only because of its incredible dullness, and because it conveys one of the few genuine messages of the film: that rather than skirting around issues, as these two do, honest and open communication will help fix a problem with astounding rapidity. Whitaker's character manages to make peace with his wife, and himself, by listening to what she has to say, and by listening to his students. Goldwyn's police officer is trapped by his own incapacity to face his feelings about the school shootings, or admit them to a counsellor, and is freed only when an unambiguous situation allows and demands he take action. Even a mother trying to raise a son while under fire for her seeming inability to recognise what was wrong with another child seems to face her greatest challenge in exchanging more than four sentences with her boy without raising her voice.
"American Gun" is not a bad film. It simply isn't very good. The slow pace and lack of direction lessen the impact of its serious themes, and the detached feeling lessens emotional connection and sympathy towards the main characters. It's a film one can watch, but not, perhaps, a film worth watching.

Video

Presented in a widescreen ratio of 1.78:1 this anamorphic transfer is exactly what one would come to expect from a low budget independent film, the image isn't as sharp as I would have liked it to be, come colors don't pop us much as they should. I found there were some compression issues, grain was prominent in dimly lit scenes and night scenes. Despite these problems the transfer was entirely watchable and nothing stood out as a major problem just a lot of little things.

Audio

This film includes a single Dolby Digital 5.1 track in English, don't be fooled by the title this film is not an action film, it is a straight drama and therefor the film is dialogue heavy. The track reflects this as it's center heavy with minimal activity in the surround channels, there is some subtle environmental sounds but often too subtle to make out. The music comes across well and makes use of the front speakers quite well.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

Genius Products have included only a small collection of extras that includes a short featurette plus a collection of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

The film comes with a dismal, "making of" featurette that runs for 8 minutes 15 seconds. It is short lived and uninformative, really lacking any sort of insight into the way the film was made or more interestingly, why the film was made the way it was.

Rounding out the extras are a collection of bonus trailers, these are all start-up previews and can be skipped. The previews included are for:

- "Killshot" which runs for 2 minutes 1 second.
- "Pulse" which runs for 2 minutes 32 seconds.
- "Clerks II" which runs for 1 minute 59 seconds.
- "Lucky Number Slevin" which runs for 2 minutes 11 seconds.
- "C.S.A.: Confederate States of America" which runs for 2 minutes 8 seconds.

Overall

The Film: C- Video: C+ Audio: B Extras: D+ Overall: C

 


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