American Gun

Aside from "GUNS BAD," it's not clear what the filmmakers behind American Gun wanted to say.  Writer/director Aric Avelino and co-writer Steven Bagatourian weave together three stories all related to gun violence and the ubiquitous nature of guns in today's society.  Instead of saying something coherent, they opt for sensationalistic histrionics, and worse, leave out endings for many of their stories.  It is an interesting concept with lots of potential for thoughtful storytelling, but none of it is in evidence here.  Nothing of worth happens in the first thirty minutes or so.  Even a great cast cannot save American Gun.

Three years ago, Janet's (Marcia Gay Harden, Bad News Bears, P.S.) son killed a number of students in a small Oregon town in a Columbine-like incident.  In the meantime, she has lost jobs, friends, and struggles to keep her other son David (Christopher Marquette, Just Friends, The Girl Next Door) close.  David is returning to the public school where the incident occurred, and is extremely apprehensive until he meets Tally (Nikki Reed, Lords of Dogtown, Thirteen), a cute girl who seems interested in him.  Officer Frank (Tony Goldwyn, The Last Samurai, Abandon) still deals with the guilt of not having been able to do more.  Across the country in Virginia, Mary-Anne (Linda Cardinelli, Grandma's Boy, Brokeback Mountain) is adjusting to rural college life.  She went to Virginia for college because everybody else in her family did, and works in her grandfather Carl's (Donald Sutherland, Ask the Dust, Lord of War) gun shop because everybody else in her family did too, although she is not too comfortable with it.

In Chicago, Principal Carter (Forest Whitaker, First Daughter, Phone Booth) struggles to keep control at a high school.  Star student Jay (Arlen Escarpeta, High Crimes) brings a gun to school for protection; he walks through some very bad neighborhoods and works all night at a gas station.  Carter overworks himself and neglects his wife (Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, Barbershop 2, Bad Company) and young son.

Of all the stories, the Carl/Mary-Anne one is the most moving, only because it is the only one with real emotion.  The setting in the gun store is completely arbitrary, as is the lame plot point that Avelino and Bagatourian cook up to throw in some additional emotion.  Guns are also not that big a part of the Carter story.  They do play a large part of the Oregon story, but Harden is so amped up that she is reduced to a shrill, yelling/crying caricature.  It is so bad that viewers will want to tune her out.  None of the emotional anguish she is going through translates over, even though Avelino is very heavy-handed in how he portrays things.  The ending to this story feels particularly contrived.  Movies with multiple stories can work well, and there is a good geographic and cultural cross-section here.  It's pretty interesting in how blatant Avelino is in trying to get his message across, yet he fails to do so because none of the stories serve his purpose well, and when he is on message, he stumbles badly.  What is the point of this movie? 

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated R for violent content and language.

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