Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Marcia Gay Harden, Forest Whitaker, Donald Sutherland, Linda Cardellini, Arlen Escarpeta
Director: Aric Avelino
Studio: Genius Products Inc Release Date: 05/08/2007 Run time: 95 minutes Rating: R
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K. Harris | Las Vegas, NV | 11/17/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When the Paul Haggis film "Crash" won an Academy Award for Best Picture for 2006, I wasn't surprised but I was a bit disappointed. Don't get me wrong, I liked "Crash" well enough--but it was a message movie of the most obvious type. Even stellar performances could not hide its manipulative nature and the contrivance that helped move the plot forward. The "racism is bad yet prevalent in society" theme bludgeoned the viewer with an important lesson--one that might have benefited from a little more subtlety in the storytelling. But why talk about "Crash?" As the indie film "American Gun" began, I immediately sensed the similarities. A disparate, seemingly unrelated group of characters was introduced and I was sure I was in for colliding stories with an important lesson about gun control and violence.
Well, there's good news and bad news. First the good: "American Gun" features a tremendous cast doing great work, and the film is not a preachy diatribe that tells you how you should feel ("Crash" anyone?). However, the bad news is that some of the storylines seem a bit underdeveloped. The end result is that this is a solid piece of filmmaking that falls short of being great. It's definitely worth a look, for a variety of reasons, but it didn't end up packing the emotional punch that I had hoped it would. While some viewers may be left unsatisfied with the general lack of resolution, it was several underwritten subplots that were more problematic for me.
The principle story involves Marcia Gay Harden as the mother of a boy who has gone on a Columbine-like shooting spree at his school. Three years after the event, she and her other son (Chris Marquette) are still trying to deal with the aftermath. Harden is a tremendous presence and a great actress, and if there was only one reason to recommend this film--it would be her. Fierce, defensive, shouldering the blame and fighting to hold it together--this is such a great performance! Marquette matches her nicely and this plotline is moving and riveting. In addition, Tony Goldwyn gives a sensitive performance as a cop in the same town who is also haunted by the school shooting. In an unrelated story, Forest Whitaker gives a typically fine performance as a principle trying to make a difference. Linda Cardellini and Donald Sutherland show up in another story arc--bonding as grandfather and granddaughter.
The Cardellini/Sutherland story left much to be desired--nicely performed but not particularly enlightening. The Whitaker plot is better, if more conventional, and features strong work by Chris Warren Jr. as a promising student trying to make good. And that leaves Harden and Marquette in a story of great power and unrelenting despair. If this was the whole film, I'd give it five stars. But the unevenness brings the score down to about 3 1/2 (I'm rounding up for Harden). I admired much of "American Gun," but I just didn't love it. KGHarris, 11/07."
Nice effort from writer-director Aric Avelino
Jenny J.J.I. | That Lives in Carolinas | 01/25/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
""American Gun", is an attempt to do what so many filmmakers wish: to speak out on an issue, changing minds or informing, shedding light on dark areas. It is a shame that "American Gun" is not more successful, as it generally comes across as directionless, failing to convey its tagline message that firing a gun shatters more than silence.
In the style of movies like "Crash", or "Magnolia", "American Gun" follows several separate story threads that intertwine- though, it must be said, to a lesser extent than those films. Marcia Gay Haden plays the mother of a boy who took part in a Columbine-style assault on his school who now has to deal not only with the hostility of parents around her but also her other son, now marked by the shadow of his brother's actions. Forest Whitaker's character is the principal of an inner-city school who has become so consumed by protecting his school and his students that his relationship with his wife (Garcelle Beauvais) and son is suffering. The daily struggle to keep his campus safe hasn't prevented one of his better students, who lives in a dangerous neighborhood, from acquiring a gun to protect himself- especially during the night job he has taken on to support his family. Linda Cardellini is a college student working in a gun shop owned by her grandfather (Donald Sutherland) who is struggling to find her place in life, and Tony Goldwyn is a police officer forced to confront his feelings as one of the officers criticized for not doing more to prevent the school shooting tragedy.
The major problem with the movie is that a synopsis fills you in on almost everything you need you know about the content of the film. There are few compelling scenes, whether we focus on action or emotion, and the characters are so one-dimensional that their names barely matter- within the confines of the film, they matter only insofar as their thoughts about firearms exist. To a certain degree, this is the point- Avelino clearly wishes to portray a series of stories that speak for themselves. However, the film ultimately feels impersonal, as if too much has been contrived in order to make a point. By and large, the actors perform adequately, and Whitaker's performance is excellent- although this might be the result of receiving a role with far more substance to it than many of the other capable actors in the film. His character comes off as noble, but human- someone with the best of intentions who is inevitably worn down by the magnitude of the task in front of him. Nobody could walk away from the task of keeping children safe, and yet it is too much of a burden for him to shoulder.
By and large, the other characters are not that persuasive. Their stories, or settings, are interesting enough, but barring one or two moments of genuine pathos, very little happens that is worth the setup. "American Gun" is not a bad film. It simply isn't very good. The slow pace and lack of direction lessen the impact of its serious themes, and the detached feeling lessens emotional connection and sympathy towards the main characters. It's a film one can watch, but not, perhaps, a film worth watching.
One of the Best Films of 2006
Joshua Miller | Coeur d'Alene,ID | 09/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
""American Gun" is a film that came out and just kind of came and went. It recieved generally good review, but it hasn't received much notice or recognition. Having seen Ebert & Roeper praise it (and the whole premise sounded interesting), I have to say that this is one of the best films that I've seen in 2006. It, like last years 'Crash', takes a group of unrelated stories and tells them. The difference is, they never intertwine with each other. Just 4 (main) stories that all revolve around guns basically. Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden plays Janet, a single mother trying desperately to raise her young son (Chris Marquette) despite endless scrutiny from her neighbors. Janet's son was 1/2 of the assailants in a school shooting three years ago that still has an effect on everyone involved. Miles away, Carter (Forest Whitaker, in one of his best performances) plays a high school principal trying to make a difference in his young students lives; Despite the seemingly endless amount of violence that occurs in the school setting. Frank (Tony Goldwyn) is a cop who still feels guilty that he didn't do more to save lives during the aforementioned school shooting. In Virginia, a young woman named Maryanne (Linda Cardellini, 'Brokeback Mountain') works for her Grandpa (Donald Sutherland) at his gun shop. And finally, Marcus (Chris Marren Jr.)
gets caught at Carter's school with a gun that he's in posession of for protection while at work. Most of the characters are developed well enough, except Maryanne who leaves something to be wanted. The movie has a great cast, that includes Nikki Reed ('Thirteen') and Schuyler Fisk ('Orange County'); I think this is one of the most powerful, gritty, well-acted films of the year. The only complaints are the lack of development on Maryanne (and don't get me wrong, it's there...It's just not fully developed) and the abrupt ending. Whitaker gives the best performance in the film as Carter, whom you can see really wants to help his students while he neglects his family. If nothing else, see this film for Whitaker's performance.