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Blood and violence dominate characters in Gunmen


Directed by Deran Sarafian

Written by Stephen Sommers

Starring Mario van Peebles, Christopher Lambert, Patrick Stewart, and Dennis Leary.

By Craig K. Chang
Staff Reporter

Forgettable. Implausible. Crude. Unfortunately, Gunmen cannot shake off any of these adjectives. Neither can the movie's characters shake off their obsession with guns, violence, and torture. Either Gunmen's makers had never picked up the latest newspaper or I have grown too sensitive to movies where 90 percent of the cast is either pickled with machine gun fire or buried alive, and the surviving characters, who may or may not belong to the former categories, run off with drug money and grins of joy.

Christopher Lambert plays Dani, the brother of a man who shortchanged a drug lord named Loomis, played by Patrick Stewart. Some $400 million of this stolen money resides in a boat whose location only Dani knows. To begin the movie's action, DEA agent Cole Parker (Mario van Peebles) rescues Deni from Loomis' fortress to find this hidden treasure.

The title of the film aptly points out what fills in numerous gaps in plot. The majority of the cast consists of extras with no lines other than short cries and grunts after they are shot. At one point, the predominant gang of villains in the story shoots the parents of a little girl, who must watch from only a few meters away. But the girl, of course, is only a vehicle for generally undeserved sympathy for various victims throughout the rest of the film.

With sloppy characters and all this violence in the foreground, Gunmen becomes a film of ghosts. We never see or learn much about the brother of Dani, who seems to be most relevant to the hidden money, the driving force of all this killing. The few long and drawn out executions we must watch are of nearly unknown characters, not to mention the dozens of anonymous gunmen who flash on the screen before becoming corpses. And even the supposed treasure the film claims to be about has no dimension or presence in the film (dollar bills just don't sparkle).

As van Peebles and Lambert struggle to breathe life back into the film, the only problem remains that they make terrible buddies. From the start, their relationship never is on equal terms; whoever has the gun has the upper hand. Therefore, when both get hold of guns at the same time, they shoot each other in the leg for fun. Who knows why they even bothered to have a heart to heart about their childhood at one point. The closest they come to bonding is during the moment their greedy paws settle upon crisp dollar bills. And as both of them limp together, climb stairs together, and swim to shore together, and even forget to limp together, the film approaches oblivion.

Perhaps the only point Gunmen makes is that greed knows no boundaries and that guns are the very efficient tools in satisfying this greed. "Kill him!" was the order that Patrick Stewart's Loomis gave to his gunmen repeatedly throughout the movie. They do this willingly until, of course, they decide to mutiny against their boss. In fact, mutiny also occurs elsewhere in the film, all in the name of money. Everybody seems to be mutinying for money: police detectives, henchmen, even those within a group of henchmen. In the most explicit demonstration of Gunmen's apparent thesis, Cole and Dani, after losing their precious gun over a waterfall, hold up a gun dealer with recently stolen guns and steal money to take a plane to where the big money is. At least everything connects.

But because of the way violence is so carelessly presented, the film never conveys these relationships between greed and violence. That the name of the boat where the money hides is "Gunmen" just blends in with the rest of the film's portrait of violence and evades any chance at saying something. Everything is about who can get their hands on a big stack of cash, and nothing addresses any particular catalyst to all the killing. A character in the film aptly criticizes the gunmen's sequence of events: he complains at one point, "There's a lot of killing going around here, but not a lot of looking for the money." At least one person was awake during production.