_American Gun_ seems to set people off in two distinct directions: either you love it's subtle anti-firearms message or you run screaming for the hills and feel like the movie falls apart in the last fifteen minutes. Regardless of my own political/moral views concerning guns, I was pulled into this film by two aspects. First, the story was a fresh one and did not (for most of the film) descend into a well-traveled plot. The idea of tracing a gun's history, letting the owner's lives and experiences tell the story of self-defense and homicide, is an original one that made the movie fresh and exciting. This device, the gun, also provided a source for constant change in the movie and kept the movie afloat on its current. The second thing that pulled me in is the powerful final performance of James Coburn, an actor who always succeeds at playing his parts with style, grace, and a deft control of the character. Coburn manages to communicate the pain of a man who loses his daughter to an act of gun violence. His ability to remain strong, shutting out those around him while privately grieving for his daughter, honestly connects up to my experiences of strong men of the old guard. James Coburn was a wonderful actor and _American Gun_ is a fine film to cap one's career.
As to the final section of the film, I do not agree with those who believe the film falls apart or becomes unravelled. I enjoyed the sudden twist of the final few moments (though I can't say it was completely unexpected) and thought that it gave the film a final powerful blow. Rather than depict the lives of saints who are completely sympathetic and understandable, director Alan Jacobs decided to portray real characters-complete with moral ambiguity and problems. If you enjoy smaller films and will not be completely chaffed by a subtle movie that explores the issues concerning the Second Amendment, you should check out _American Gun_ . While it may not be the best thing you've seen in years, it is a fresh film, with a fresh outlook, that guarantees to entertain.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars Coburn's last film, February 15, 2004
By Martin Andrade "Media Gurgitator" (Minnesota) - See all my reviews
American Gun is an independent film that was adapted in part from a book that was written about the travels of a gun. I was able to see this movie in the theatre and writer director Alan Jacobs was there to later answer some questions about the film. Jacobs was interested in telling the story of a family that was faced with tragedy, and over this story he also brings in what he thinks is a balanced debate about guns. Though he fails in this, and at times too much effort is put into the gun debate side of the movie, the movie is still a great story.
The story is fairly fresh; a WWII veteran (played by the then 72 year old Coburn) who has had a relatively successful life loses his daughter to a gun. He goes on a long sabbatical in which he traces the history on the gun that killed his daughter. Positive and negative aspects are explored. A poor inner city student shoots his friend then commits suicide with the gun. A young woman who was kidnapped and put in the back of a trunk uses the gun to save her life. As Coburn is investigating the history of the gun, he is writing letters to his deceased daughter in an effort to cope with the pain. All this is set to flashbacks from his war experience where he first learned to kill a man with a gun.
There are several subplots that are put into the movie; the story of Coburn is coupled with the rebellion of his only granddaughter and the ongoing tale of the gun that killed his daughter. Though it at times is a little messy, Jacobs brings the entire movie together at the end very nicely.
The best part of the movie is Coburn. At the age of 72, he successfully portrays a man that is in pain but who is still tough as nails. In one scene Coburn confronts a man much younger than him and his presence intimidated me. If anything else, this film is worthwhile for this fact alone.
In total, this film is entertaining and thought provoking. Though the general conclusion of Jacobs is that guns are lose-lose, the film doesn't suffer because of this fact. As a member of the NRA and firm gun rights advocate, I thought I was going to be annoyed at this film. I wasn't. The end has Coburn not fighting against guns, nor advocating confiscation, but merely moving on with his life and family.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars American Gun is more than just a few plot twists...., April 23, 2005
By Angie Engles (Columbia, MD United States) - See all my reviews
Just when I think I have seen all the films that could possibly leave me vulnerable, I find this under-rated and powerful DVD. I watched this on Showtime the other evening and it left me in that "wow" fog a good movie can leave behind.
If you start watching AMERICAN GUN and are tempted to stop because Virginia Madsen apparently leaves the storyline early, don't! Not only is her character crucial to the overall plot, James Coburn knocks you out cold with his caring, but angry-at-the-world-and-himself portrayal of a father who loses a family member to a fatal gunshot.
I hesitate to describe too much of the plot since there are unexpected turns and twists that shouldn't be revealed, but I can elaborate on the style and lovely quietness of AMERICAN GUN. Maybe "quiet" isn't the whole truth since various gunshots explode throughout the movie as James Coburn explores the history of one gun that has traveled through many different hands. The loudness is also there when he looks back at his own experiences with ammunition in war.
AMERICAN GUN hit me so hard because it is an emotional film more than anything else. At first it seems to be about how a husband and wife each handle grief differently or how one man is determined to find his daughter's killer. In a way, that could sum it up, but there's also a lot about closure and what we think we see versus what is actually there.
The reason this indie deserves more acclaim is because it takes you places you don't expect to go and you are able to experience that great mental process called "thinking." Watch this by yourself--or better yet, rent it with a group of friends who truly enjoy discussing (but not talking to death) a great work of art.
On a side note: The whole cast is just spectacular (a small role by Alexandra Holden will get you a bit teary-eyed), but Coburn and Madsen shine.
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