Gun, the latest film from Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, takes on the heady subject of gun crime in Detroit, with the police department in the middle of a full-scale war against gun runners that steal and murder seemingly without consequence.
A crotchety police detective in charge of investigating these gangs targets Rich (50 Cent), a vicious thug with a vast and brutal arms operation. Meanwhile career criminal Angel (Val Kilmer) has just been released from prison – having saved Rich’s life during a gun deal gone wrong many years previously, Rich welcomes his old compatriot back into his new operation with open arms. But all may not be what it seems, and the three men rush towards a violent, bullet-strewn showdown.
That Gun is not a good film will come, I imagine, as a surprise to nobody. It is directed by the man who brought us Soul Plane, written by a rapper with no previous screenplays to his name, and has gone direct to DVD, so all but the most optimistic of viewers will approach this with significantly managed expectations.But what you’re probably here for is to find out exactly what flavour of badness Gun has: is it poor in a laughably schlocky, did-50-really-think-this-would-be-a-good-idea insane mess kind of way, or is it just plain old shit?
Unfortunately, in a lot of ways, Gun is disappointingly competent, which ironically serves only to make its intense mediocrity even more apparent. It has a decent cast, for one thing – the always good value John Larroquette shows up for a late scene, for example.
And once you get over the initial shock of seeing the 2011 Val Kilmer, who appears to have undergone a late-career transformation into the Chief from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, his nicely understated portrayal of a man at rock bottom is by far the most interesting thing about Gun. It’s also directed in a workmanlike but perfectly adequate way by hip-hop music video veteran Jessy Terrero.
But Gun is really only about one man. His screenwriter, actor and producer credits demonstrate that this is wholeheartedly, as Mark Kermode might put it, Un Film de 50 Cent. The jury is still out on his acting ability – he’s reasonably effective in this role, but I still think that, for a million-selling rapper he’s got an incredible paucity of charisma.
As for his screenwriting, to give him his due for a first attempt from someone who is (I presume) an amateur, it isn’t a total disaster, even if it does include lines such as “This shit right here is the shit.” The film is paced relatively well (it is a mercifully short 78 minutes), and there are a couple moments that evoke a decent amount of tension.
The main problem with Gun is the same problem I have with 50 Cent’s music – it is so completely dedicated to an infantile form of gangsta rap machismo that it is crushingly, inescapably dull in its unrelenting grimness. There’s no humour, no sex appeal (there’s a sex scene, but I’ll get to that in a second) – 50 clearly wants to write a thoughtful, ‘serious’ crime film a la The Godfather or Heat, but as a screenwriter he simply doesn’t have the dramatic chops required to invest it with requisite amount of humanity and emotion to make it resonate.As it is, Gun rarely raises itself above the level of portentous, joyless and dull.
He would have much been better off writing a totally amoral film packed full of gratuitous violence that embraced the inherent campy ludicrousness of his gangsta rap persona, thereby producing something that would at least have some worth as trashy fun.
Which isn’t to say that Gun isn’t ludicrous – there are an obscene number of shots of 50 wielding and firing insanely large weapons for it ever to be truly taken seriously. His fetishisation of guns and ammo is a bit perplexing – I was reminded of Bill Hicks’ joke about Jesus, on his return, lambasting Christians for wearing crosses as they were the last thing he wanted to see once back on earth.
In a similar vein, you would have thought that after being shot several times and nearly killed in a drive-by shooting, 50 would have steered well clear of any weaponry for a while, instead of taking the opportunity to fire and handle as many guns as humanly possible. I’m not convinced he even really likes or knows anything about guns – in one lengthy action scene, he fires a sniper rifle from the hip, which looks as ridiculous as it sounds– but obviously he’s got an image to uphold.
Which is what Gun boils down to, really – it’s a million dollar ego massage, a box ticking exercise, a textbook vanity project. He makes himself the villain, sure, but he’s also the undisputed king of the castle – he gets all the best lines, and fires all of the best weapons. He writes the theme tune, raps the theme tune – nobody else gets a look in.
The nadir of this self-serving comes during the aforementioned sex scene, where a hitherto unintroduced female character is barely given time to quiver in fear/arousal before 50 barks “Can you handle this?” and whisks her off to a hotel room for a graphically gymnastic sequence of vigorous rutting, complete with several lingering shots of 50’s naked bobbing arse. And it happens for no reason. It is the very definition of gratuitous.
I’m not offended by gratuitous sex scenes – what I am offended by is the implication that 50 wrote a gratuitous sex scene just so he could take part in one. And then make the camera focus on his arse. (In fairness, this may have been a directorial decision.)
Why does he feel the need to inform us of his sexual prowess so blatantly? Are the millions of dollars and platinum records and film roles not enough? What kind of approval does 50 need from us? Are we capable of giving it? And let’s not even go down the whole ‘gun as penis substitute’ road. Because then we really will be here all day.
Ultimately, Gun isn’t the utter turkey that many had expected, but a good performance from Val Kilmer and a half decent first attempt at screenwriting from 50 really shouldn’t mask it for what it is: 80 minutes of shameless self-aggrandising.