'Gunmen' is all firepower, no brainpower

February 04, 1994|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

In "Gunmen," the machine guns have all the best lines. The automatic pistols should sue, the sawed-off shotguns need a new agent, and the one poor pitiful little revolver is so overwhelmed it seems like a victim of society.

As for the actors, they hardly register amid the hardware.

This is an oafish, overwrought mock Italian western updated to South America, where the endless fighting centers not on gold or cattle but the profits from cocaine and heroin. It's full of immense close-ups of men with dirty, oily faces and messy hair, and music that sounds like an accordion and a trombone thrown down the stairs. It boasts a kind of loopy, disassociated spirit that is flirtatious yet utterly bereft of charm.

The alleged stars include Mario Van Peebles and, even more alleged, Christopher Lambert, once the world's tiniest Tarzan and now a regular on the D-grade movie circuit. Lambert's most charming move: He eats a fly.

As the crazed plot has it, Van Peebles is a ticked-off DEA agent on the hunt for the illegal millions drug kingpin Patrick Stewart has stashed away. But Stewart's accountant has robbed him, and for his troubles gotten killed. Only the accountant's brother, Lambert, knows where the loot is; thus Lambert and Van Peebles bond in that time-honored bad good guy/good bad guy way. This comes complete with lots of snippy needling and wisecracks under fire, while the drug lord's mercenaries, headed by the very irritating Dennis Leary, hunt them down.

Typical dialogue:

M-16A2 (HB): Bapbabpababapbap.

Custom Colt Commander: Bwof! Bwof!

Mossberg 12-gauge Persuader (sawed-off): BAM!

There may have been some actual human language in the preceding exchange, but my ears were vibrating so busily I was unable to make it out.

Stewart is in the movie for maybe 112 seconds, which is about 30 seconds more than poor Sally Kirkland is. They probably flew in and out on the same shuttle. Some rappers -- among them Big Daddy Kane and Kid Frost -- also appear, in equally truncated form and equally cynical fashion, that is, to get their names in the ads without having to pay them much money or give them much to do.

The young director, Deran Serafian, doesn't bring much distinction to the almost endless action sequences, which all take place in that goofy unrealistic zone of the unbelievable, which has the effect of making the whole thing pointless. When the irritating Dennis Leary is the best thing in the movie, you know you've got troubles.

"Gunmen"

Starring Christopher Lambert and Mario Van Peebles

Directed by Deran Serafian

Released by Dimension

R-rated

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