An uninspiring commentary on gun control in America, "American Gun" has a great cast but a cliché screenplay that at times shows promise, but eventually just stumbles. There is no real surprise why this movie went directly to DVD.
"American Gun" stars Linda Cardellini ("E.R."), Tony Goldwyn ("Ghost"), Marcia Gay Harden, Donald Sutherland, Forest Whitaker and Chris Marquette ("Joan of Arcadia") in this "Crash-like" movie about intersecting stories that all have to do with guns. One story takes a look at Cardellini, who works for her grandpa Sutherland in a gun store. That's about it. Another story follows the adventures of Whitaker, a high school principle who has to deal with guns in his school on a regular basis, so much so that the job is making him miss out on life with his own family. The most interesting story is that of Gay Harden, who plays the mother of a teenage boy who went on a high school shooting rampage. Despised by her neighbors and struggling to make ends meet, she is in near constant hysterics as she tries to prove to the world that her other son (Marquette) is not a twisted psychopath. He, on the other hand, views her as most teenagers view their mothers at that age - a crazy nuisance.
The DVD cover features "Two Thumbs Up" from Ebert and Roeper, which makes me wonder what exactly those two were watching when they thought they were watching "American Gun." It is not that the movie is dreadful - and in fact it was decent enough (so perhaps Ebert and Roeper gave it two hesitant thumbs up, which points out yet another flaw in the all-or-nothing rating system) - but the film offers nothing of substance. The plot lines are all fairly standard, and, even when well acted do not capture the emotion first-time director Aric Avelino was going for.
Cardellini and Sutherland's storyline is a complete waste of time, and honestly, two days after viewing the movie, I cannot remember what ever became of their two characters. Whitaker, as always, is a joy to watch, but his story is also quite basic and without any kind of truly inspiring resolution. The one sub story of an A-student (Arlen Escarpeta) who brings a gun to school for protection is pretty interesting, but the movie unfortunately does not devote enough time to him to make it worth our while. Again, the only substantial story belongs to that of Gay Harden (or just Harden? Gay Harden is funnier to say) and Marquette. This is the story that actually has a beginning, middle and end, and I have to wonder how good the movie could have been had "American Gun" focused entirely on their story. The finale to this story is also the most shocking, yet at the same time completely out of left field. Shouldn't the shooter have been a character who was developed through the rest of the movie, rather than just some random burglar?
Gay Harden, as usual, delivers a screen-dominating performance, but, as usual, sort of annoyed me. The flag scene is priceless and nearly award-worthy, yet most times I couldn't get past the fact that this woman wasn't just emotional but is downright crazy.
Marquette is probably best out of all in a much more subdued role; his tiny outbursts of anger compliment themselves well against Gay Harden's constant onslaught.
Ultimately, "American Gun" has fine performances and decent direction, but it is too in-your-face without offering any kind of focused or engaging storyline to sink your teeth into. Had someone been brought in to tighten up the script and perhaps lop off a few storylines, this movie really could have been something. Instead, it went straight to DVD. Do I really need to say more than that?
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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