Originally posted 6 February 2000
Movies: Gun Shy
I had not seen a single preview or television spot for Gun Shy before it opened this past Friday--and I pay attention to these things. I was only dimly aware of the movie because I had seen a small ad for it in the paper. Perhaps I should have been tipped off by the lack of marketing muscle put behind Gun Shy. Perhaps I should have noted the chemistry-defiant pairing of Liam Neeson and Sandra Bullock. Perhaps I should have analyzed the downward trending in the stars' roles over time: Bullock broke into my consciousness in 1994 with Speed and his since made such celluloid wasters as Two if by Sea, Hope Floats and Forces of Nature; Neeson introduced himself to me in 1993 with Schindler's List, but has since forced me to ignore him as he's gone on to make Rob Roy, Michael Collins and The Haunting. Even Oliver Platt, a co-star of Gun Shy and an alum of such respectable fare as Married to the Mob, Benny & Joon and Bulworth, has recently made Simon Birch, Lake Placid, Three to Tango and Bicentennial Man.
Perhaps I should have heeded even one of these hints. But I did not.
On Friday night, my neighbor Rich and I went to see Gun Shy at the Sony megaplex on 68th Street. We went because Rich had read two good reviews of the movie: one in the New York Observer and one in the New York Times. The Times review was written by Elvis Mitchell, one of the paper's two new movie critics and one who cannot possibly hold his job for long if the very existence of a film is going to be his gold standard for a good review.
Anyway. Gun Shy is a mess. It is written and directed by Eric Blakeney, a first-time director and a man whose *total* writing credits comprise Fighting for My Daughter, a 1995 TV movie, and Generation X, a 1996 TV movie. I think Gun Shy is supposed to be about a legendary DEA agent who has lost his nerve and starts going to therapy, Analyze-This-style. There's so little plot, however, I'm not sure that's the central idea. Neeson doesn't mitigate the narrative chaos one bit: he never carries himself like a leading man, and a scatological theme about his character is intended to be humorous but is really just Too Much Information. No scene builds on any previous scene, and the final sequence in particular is a bizarre and embarrassing coda to this muddle.
Here's how Gun Shy scored on a scale of 1 - 10 in my categories of analysis:
*Gender: 2. Bullock's character is actually quite minor and totally superfluous; one gets the feeling she's given a small role and a few sassy lines because she is one of the movie's producers. I would like her character more if she weren't there solely to sleep with Neeson's character. The rest of the women in the movie are either castrating wives or pure decoration. Equally detestable, the film puts most of its male characters in therapy and then demeans them for having and discussing emotions.
Gun Shy also manages to pervert its use of queer characters. One of the supporting men turns out to be gay, and this is used only for laughs--as if somebody has surreptitiously placed a sign on his back that says "kick me" and the audience is supposed to find this humorous. The Love Letter (starring Ellen DeGeneres and Kate Capshaw; reviewed by me on May 30, 1999--see Older Reviews) employed this weak technique, too. I hope we're not seeing a new Hollywood fag fad.
*Race: 1. Gun Shy seems to think it's okay to stereotype Italians and Colombians, as long as the movie winks at you while doing this. Since the film isn't genuinely clever, this trope just comes off as flabby cliché standing in for actual character development. There is a token black supporting character.
*Shoes: 6.5. The highlight of the movie. Bullock is seen wearing two groovy pairs of boots and some cute gardening clogs.
*Dogs: 0. Gun Shy is a movie that would benefit from a few appealing hounds.
*Do things blow up? 0. The DEA is involved in the plot, so you'd think the filmmakers could work in a nice blast or two.
In sum, Gun Shy is a loser. Fortunately, Rich and I went to John's Pizzeria on 65th beforehand and it was nice walking home afterwards, so we had a decent evening despite the crumminess of the movie. One of the great things about going to the movies in New York is that you can walk home (or at least to the train) and think about the film you've just seen and whether it had any really top-notch explosions or not. In the case of Gun Shy, Rich and I had both forgotten the film before we'd even reached the corner. I suggest you take that evidence, plus the wealth of available clues about the quality of Gun Shy and do as I did not: skip this film.