we have been through the major warning signs of rough viewing roads
ahead. We now know to grit our teeth and tighten all sphincters when
we see one of the following: Nudity in the first scene.
The first scene is a montage of stock footage. We see the monster in
the first three minutes. The Medallion TV logo. Let us now add yet
another warning sign to this Litany of the Lost - the words you see
to the left, words which strike fear into the heart of low-budget aficionados
everywhere: An Albert Pyun Film.
in his excellent Unknown
Movies page, once opined, "Despite being such a bad director, Pyun has made a big impression in the B-movie
world, so every B-movie site should deal with him at least once,"
although he meant deal in the sense of "Oh my God, quarantine
the area and Warn the City at once!" After a decent first
film (The Sword and the Sorcerer), Pyun has indeed befuddled
the world with a steady stream of action films which, although not exactly
terrible, certainly failed to satisfy on a number of levels*.
Mainly they are mediocre to the point of boredom, with unmemorable characters
shuffling from one loosely connected not-terribly-thrilling action scene
to the next . An action film, by its very nature, needs to raise your
blood pressure at least a little every so often. But Pyun films
are the action films that make you reach for the remote, thinking, "Maybe
The Learning Channel is re-running When Things Go Boom."
all these hurtful things being said, let me proceed to thrill and amaze
you: I actually liked Mean
first encountered Mean Guns very late one night on that great
Repository for Movies Of Which You Have Never Heard, HBO. I
missed the first 20 minutes, which means I missed all the opening exposition
(and the tell- tale An Albert Pyun Film) and slipped right into
the plot major. What caught my attention was Ice-T ...whom I always
enjoy... and hey! Isn't that Christopher Lambert? As the movie progressed,
two thoughts began to blossom in my head: Good Lord, this may be
the stupidest movie ever made; and This has got to
be an Albert Pyun film.
of all, to get the first plot improbability out of the way, the World
Crime Syndicate has, for some reason, built a brand new maximum security
prison. The day before the prison is to be opened, one of The Syndicate's
leaders, Moon* (Ice-T), gathers together a bunch of his toughs in the commons
at the heart of said empty prison. Herded through a series of "out-of-town"
muscle boys, at least one of which has fangs, the toughs must
surrender their weapons. The expected party does not materialize; instead
Moon reveals that each of the toughs has, in some way, betrayed The
of simply murdering the traitors, the bored Moon has decided on a more
amusing (for him) way to take out the trash. First, the prison's gates
are time- locked for six hours. Snipers have been posted to keep anyone
from jumping the walls. The toughs are expected to do each other in
- if, at the end of six hours, more than three are alive, everybody
dies. As an added incentive, the last three standing get
to split ten million dollars. In turn, The Syndicate gets to watch the
party via the prison's closed-circuit TV system.
then dumps a tub full of various guns into the commons. There is a general
scramble for weapons, followed by a symphony of clicks and ratchets
as the hoods discover that the guns are empty (for the briefest of moments,
the camera speeds up, Keystone Kops-style as the criminals point and
click uselessly at each other). Only then does Moon have his bully boys
dump a tub full of bullets on the room below. And, oh, yes, a tub full
of baseball bats. Then the carnage begins in earnest.
that, my friends, is your plot. Yes, writer Andrew Witham has found
a way to set up a 90 minute running gunfight.
all right, there are characters to deal with, too. There's Marcus (Michael
Halsey), Moon's right-hand
man, a world-weary killer, and the only participant allowed to keep
his own gun; the obligatory black-leather-clad cold-as-ice blonde known
only as D (Kimberly Warren); a deadly assassin well on the way to losing
his mind, Lou (Christopher Lambert), who actually asked to participate
in the festivities; and the comedy team of Hoss (Yuki Okumoto) and Crow
(Thom Matthews), thugs who have been working together for years and
say things like, "Have you read Sam Shepard? The Tooth of Crime?
are also some characters who shouldn't be there: Con (Deborah Van Valkenburgh),
an accountant who was unknowingly laundering money for Moon and was
trying to turn State's Evidence (in fact, Con's catchphrase is, "I
shouldn't be here!"); and a drugged-out prostitute named Barbie
(Tina Cote), whose unsuspecting pimp brought her along just for the
ride. These two characters provide most of the non-gunfire-driven drama:
Marcus takes the decidedly unlethal Con under his protection as a means
to possible redemption; Barbie seeks the protection of Hoss and Crow,
then uses her ho' wiles to drive a wedge between the two friends so
she can get the ten million.
I should give the impression that Mean Guns is a sterling piece
of cinema that you should rush right out
to rent or buy, there are some downsides: The movie is at least
twenty minutes too long - possibly even thirty. Lambert's character
is approached in an annoyingly abstruse manner - we are sort
of shown why he's nuts, but that - and whatever relationship Lou
has to the little girl (Hunter Doughty) sitting outside in his car while
the bad guys blow the crap out of each other - is still muddled
and unclear to me after a second viewing. There seems to be a lot
more guys getting killed than were actually in that room in the beginning...
not to mention a lot more ammo being shot. Then there are other Pyun
touches that really depend upon your tolerance for such things - the
constant Woo rips*, the way that opponents can stand ten feet from each other
and blaze away without hitting anything- and the bizarre bloodlessness
of this whole enterprise. In Mean Guns, you only bleed if you're
wounded. Even gangsters beaten to death with baseball bats do it very
one reason Mean Guns must have been a very economical movie to
shoot: very little clean-up. There's only one major location, and the
movie-savvy will notice the same camera set-ups being used again and
again. There's the actor fees, the stuntman fees, the gun rentals, the
blanks, but since we see no bullets actually hit anybody or anything
- and that prison should be riddled with holes by movie's end - there
was no need to pay for squibs or blood bags, or the pyro, makeup and
costume technicians that would normally be necessary in such a violent
flick. I am filled with admiration.
the positive: Michael Halsey as Marcus is very good. Tina Cote, in black
microdress and heels, has a thoroughly vicious fight scene with a thug.
I always like Ice-T, even when he's saddled with a ridiculous set of
platinum teeth, as he is here. Lambert has always seemed to me an actor
of limited range, but I enjoyed him here - although Lou feels and sounds
just like Raydeen from Mortal Kombat, but without the lightning
coming out the eyes. And come on: it's a feature-length gunfight!!!!
might be a clue to my uncharacteristic liking of this film: as I have
admitted elsewhere, I am a gaming geek, even at my relatively advanced
age (after all, you're at a movie review site that devoted one whole
week to a review of Resident
Evil). Above all, I love first-person shooters like Doom,
Quake, Duke Nukem and Turok. I have to play them all, no
matter how bad (and trust me: I have played some crap). Mean
Guns is sort of the cinematic equivalent of those games' loosely-
motivated violence. It's like watching a multi-player deathmatch made
flesh, with only the barest of nods to niceties like plot. Thus the
movie found a friend in me.
I still feel this is one of the stupidest movies ever made? Hell,
yes! Mean Guns does not have a brain
in its head, but it seems to realize this, and in fact embraces this
condition with glee. The movie gets down on its knees in a big ol' pool
of Stupidity and proceeds to roll in it. Moon is a big mambo fan, constantly
playing his CDs over the PA system, so all the major gunfights are scored
to happy-go-lucky salsa-drenched dance music, which just adds to the
goofiness. When I found it on HBO, I wanted something that would allow
my brain to coast in neutral for a time - Mean Guns fulfilled
that need. If that is your aim, it may fulfill that function for you
as well. But if you need anything else out of a movie - engaging
plot, crackling dialogue, involving characters, anything at all - you
definitely need to rent something else.
Lord, I can't believe I just gave an Albert Pyun film a good review.
Maybe the Millennium is upon us, after all.