Thursday, January 22, 2015

Blu-ray/DVDebut: James Mottern & Emilio Mauro's munchkin Mafia saga, BY THE GUN

TrustMovies uses the term "munchkin" in his headline for two reasons. One is that this odd little movie is very much Mafia-lite, and second, because of the small-in-stature, large-in-talent actor, Toby Jones, who acquits himself quite well as one of the Cosa Nostra's higher-level under-lings. Otherwise, although the film -- written by Emilio Mauro and directed by James Mottern (below) -- begins with some small promise of something a bit different, it soon degenerates into utter nonsense.

The film begins with our anti-hero, Nick (Ben Barnes) picking the pockets/ wallets of the two young ladies with whom he has clearly just spent the night. We soon learn that he is "connected" to a local Mafia figure (played by Harvey Keitel, below) and is longing to become a "made man." Before you can say, Don't do it, he's also involved with a pretty young lady (Leighton Meester, further below) whose dad is another local Mafia figure.

There is one interesting scene of the supposed ceremony surrounding that of a newly "made" man. Otherwise, performances are as good as they can be, given the generally problematic dialog that often sounds as if it had been written simply to advance the feeble plot. With conversation that seems to be used mostly for vamping, midway along there is perhaps the single longest and most drawn-out Will-he-or-will-he-not-pull-the-trigger? scene in the history of movies, easily going past suspense and surprise into the annals of unintentional camp.

No one here behaves in a manner you could even begin to call "normal," and so, after awhile, you lose any expectation of caring about what happens. Worse, whenever the screenwriter can't seem to decide what to do with his characters, he simply kills them off. Hey, that's easy! And though most performances are at least adequate, the lead one from Mr. Barnes is not. Sorry, but this guy is too busy trying to be a sex symbol to even approach the level of "junior" don.

Probably the best performance, other than Mr. Jones' (above), comes from a surprising source: the rapper/actor named Slaine (below), who, as an Irish outsider who hates all the Italians, gives a consistently ugly, angry, stops-out performance.

By the Gun, from Millennium Entertainment (recently renamed Alchemy) and running 110 minutes, hit the streets this past Tuesday, January 20, on DVD and Blu-ray. 

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