It is impossible to predict where John Sayles will travel at any given time in his film career, but Men with Guns is one of the director's most surprising journeys. Shot in Spanish, with a little-known cast, the film is a ... more »beguiling mix of the political and the mythical. A well-heeled doctor (Argentine actor Federico Luppi) in an unnamed Latin country leaves his comfortable home, in search of former medical students who may be caught in the political violence of the countryside. Although Sayles casts an unflinching eye on the issues of poverty and "willful ignorance" (embodied by the doctor, a well-meaning but complacent man), Men with Guns has a lush visual style and a great grab-bag of songs on the soundtrack. It's a slow and sometimes dreamlike movie, but by the time we reach the end it feels as though something special has transpired. --Robert Horton« less
"This movie grapples with some serious issues. What, exactly is going on politically in South America? Where does individual responsibility lie? What does helping people really mean? What kind of legacy is it possible to leave? The setting of this movie is an unnamed country in South America. The writer/director, John Sayles, did this on purpose. This is to show that the kind of thing depicted in the movie could happen anywhere. However, it was shot in Mexico, in Spanish, with English subtitles.The movie starts Federico Luppi as Dr. Humberto Fuentes, a wealthy doctor who is approaching retirement and has never paid close attention to the realities of his country. His greatest achievement, the "legacy" he is leaving, is his participation in an international health program in which he trained young doctors to work in the poorest of villages. I watched this movie with horror and then, finally, resignation, as Dr. Fuentes travels in the mountains and makes startling discoveries. I made a few startling discoveries myself -- the abject poverty of the people, the disregard for human life, the acceptance by the people of this as a way of life. He finds that the people have no food. He finds that both the army and the guerillas are equally brutal. The movie takes us all on a journey with Dr. Fuentes. Along the way we meet a homeless child, a priest who lives with his own private demons, and a deserter from the army with a history of participating in the carnage. The movie goes deeper and deeper into the despair and devastation.This is not a comfortable video to watch as it brings the viewer not only into the realities of the political systems in South America, but to the basic question of individual responsibility. I recommend it for those who are willing to take a fresh look at these things. You will not be smilling after viewing this video. But you will be thinking."
One of my favorite movies ever
Jeremy E. Meyer | Haverford, Pennsylvania USA | 06/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great film. Don't be deceived by the title, it is not a violent film, though it is about violence.There seems to be a debate here about where the movie takes place, whether Mexico, Guatamala, or somewhere in South America. According to John Sayles, the answer is all of the above. Though it was filmed in Mexico, Sayles purposely set it in an unnamed country to illustrate that, at least in one sense, the various conflicts in latin american countries are essentially the same--one group of "men with guns" supposily is fighting with another group of "men with guns," but really all both groups are doing is terrorizing the local people who live there. To the villagers, it doesn't matter which group is the government and which are the rebels, or which ideology each group claims to be fighting for. This general point could apply equally to many countries in latin america who have had rebel movements over the past 20 years (this includes Guatamala, but also Columbia, Peru, El Salvador, and unfortunately several others). While people familiar with Central America will recognize that the villagers wear Mayan dress, that is more due to where the movie was filmed than an intent to set it in a particular country. The soundtrack is comprised of music from almost every latin american country, from Argentina to Mexico, and Sayles says in the liner notes that he did this to emphasize that the film is not about any particular place, but rather what those conflicts have in common and why they remain so intractable."
A brilliant parable; possibly John Sayles' best work
Frank Cunat | 05/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Those at a certain station in life will identify strongly with Dr. Fuentes, the main character in John Sayles' deeply insightful "Men with Guns." Aware that he's facing a terminal illness, Fuentes seeks to leave behind a legacy in the way in which he trains others to use their own gifts. He realizes this is the most effective way to pass on the knowledge and awareness that he's achieved during his life.That's why I'm not comfortable when other reviewers have said he's "naive." Yes, he's uninformed about his country's politics, perhaps intentionally so. But he's also the only character in the film who treats all others with respect and is able to interact with them all. And, without giving anything away, note that Fuentes succeeds.This is a deeply thoughtful, almost spiritual film, and I have great respect for John Sayles for writing, directing, and producing it."
Enrique Torres | San Diegotitlan, Califas | 03/04/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Federico Luppi, the fine actor from Argentina, takes the lead role as Dr. Fuentes. He sets out to find his former students on the road to places he's never been. The shift in his life is caused by the death of his wife. He sets out in spite of his family not wanting him to leave. The aging doctor first encounters one his former students, now a drug dealer, using the same drugs he taught him to cure others, he is now using them for ill purposes. His journey has only begun and he finds many more dissapointments along the way. This is a beautiful film that is allegorical, historical, contemporary and packed with messages for the viewer to interpret. In his quest to find his students he finds his country to be quite different from the view he had of it prior to his leaving the city. He encounters missing people and tales of abductions from men with guns. The villagers call them white men with guns but are quick to say that the Indios are also now white men. Although the story takes place in an unnamed country, the parallels to Guatemala are clear. Having witnessed a corpse on the roadside while travelling in a bus (everyone gawked with little concern, as though it were a common sight) in Guatemala and seeing the treatment first hand of the military I am pretty sure this is where it is. However, this is unimportant as these occurences of hit squads and paramilitary goons, in cahoots with the military, are a frequent sight in many Latin American countries. Anyway, Dr. Fuentes picks up several people along the way to expand the tale. He picks up a "liberation priest" who abandons his collar and those who believed in him, a former military thug turned thief, an indigenous young woman who doesn't speak since she was raped by soldiers and a street-savy kid who is an orphan and Dr. Fuentes's guide. All represent the society Dr. Fuentes is unaware of and as they tell their sordid stories, amidst flashbacks and surreal dreams, a country whose people live in brutal chaos is revealed . This is a powerful movie, one to be seen more than once in order to fully enjoy. Although the story evolves around Dr. Fuentes and his crew, there are several encounters with a funny couple who are "informed" tourists with bad Spanish accents and worse pronunciation. A completly enthralling film, in spite of its length, that hits close to the harsh reality of life in Latin America. A beautiful film that is set to the backdrops of the jungle and it's relics from the past, as well as present day village life , it is a movie that is visually breathtaking and mentally stimulating. Recommended for those that like movies that carry a political and social commentary. Great stuff, see it before your next vacation to the tropics, so that as the guy from the radio says"and now you know the rest of the story" before you get there."
Everyone should see this film
Shekeda@greatcircle.net.au | Melbourne, Australia | 07/02/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is truly fantastic. The story is somewhat depressing but it also leaves a feeling of hope. It's dramatic, suspenseful, funny and sad but wholly engrossing.The cinematography is wonderful. The writing, casting, acting, locations and music are all superb. Even though the film contains many 'flashback' sequences those parts are easily distinguished from the 'present'.Also, don't let the fact that it's (mostly) subtitled put you off - you probably won't realise you're reading, after a while!Altogether, a wonderful film that would be enjoyed by anyone - whether living close to Latin America or half a world away."