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  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
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  • Theatrical trailer
American Gun
Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 86 mins . MA15+ . PAL


It’s a burning issue world wide, that of gun ownership. With Mike Moore’s recent documentary Bowling For Columbine making press the world over, gun ownership has been cast into the spotlight now more than ever. Here in Australia, of course, we’ve done away with ‘guns for everyone’ since Martin Bryant got famous. Growing up on a farm we had guns and I learned to shoot when I was 16-ish (yeah, like I learned to drink beer at 18-ish). We only used .22s on the farm for everyday shooting and the shotgun for special occasions, but we did have a lot of fun pouring hot lead into an old car wreck. We were all taught to respect weapons like these however, and no one got hurt.

So, the variations on the viewpoint can be very different; I see the fun side, I see the self/livestock defence side and I see the terrible side. All things have their pros and cons, and whilst I think the gun is basically a tool, some tools shouldn’t be played with by the inexperienced, the infirm or the incompetent.

My point may be easier to make like this: Someone I know loves chocolate. She’d eat it all day and all night if she could. I like to keep some around for whenever I’m in the mood, although I don’t really get off on chocolate like she does. Invariably though, my chocolate supply is whittled away by the time I feel like enjoying some. Not because she’s a thief, but because the temptation is there. If there were no chocolate in the house, the temptation wouldn’t exist and therefore be much harder to give in to. And so, it should be looked at the same way with guns. It’s much harder for someone to shoot someone else without a gun.

And so to our tale herein. American Gun tells the story of one man’s pursuit of the origins of the gun that shot his daughter. Tracking it across country, Martin Tillman (James Coburn) learns some things about gun ownership, the horrors that abound in the land of the free and something about himself. It’s a different story, and one that is important in its implications of guilt and carelessness. As a film it’s a little thin and long-winded, but there is a twist thrown in at the end. It’s a little late, granted, as we’ve almost stopped caring by that point, but it does leave a pause for thought.

Containing some dodgy looking World War II footage (created in a backwoods Vermont paddock by the looks of it) and some handheld camerawork (for gritty realism) the film looks a bit like a mishmash of ideas that don’t entirely gel. It works at times, but for the most part the film is trying to get a message across in the right way, but is having a lot of trouble doing so.


Made for TV by the look of things, American Gun has been created on a budget and looks just like that a lot of the time. It contains various different uses of media that include black and white and digicam which makes the calibre of the film shift about uncomfortably. Delivered in 1.78:1 with a 16:9 enhancement, it shows some nice shots of snowy Vermont in winter. That’s important when we consider artefacts show up way more on a white field, but with that the film gets by alright with very few of them. The picture does remain mostly clear throughout, but by the time the film gets to Las Vegas nearer the end, the old aliasing problem of Vegas by night arises. Flesh tones are all okay and natural looking, blacks are true and shadows within them are reasonably well detailed. I also noticed a little jittering in the opening titles, but this settled down as the film started and didn't reappear.

James Coburn has a deep booming voice that has made the transition to DVD fairly well. All dialogue is mostly clear for that matter, with no noise or static to speak of. My only real fault with it is in the fact it’s a little low volume-wise. The rest of the soundtrack is alright, with the special effects being even and well balanced and the music nice and subtle throughout. The music is actually quite melodic and mood inducing and not unlike the nice piano work in David Fincher’s The Game.

Finally the extras, which only include the trailer. This hasn’t been too well handled in that it suffers some compression woes, particularly in a shot of a creek running through the snowy landscape. It runs for two minutes 30

This started life as a rental title and is best suited to that. It is without groundbreaking acting or even storyline, but it does have a good point to make, even if it may take a little while to figure it out. Sure, there’s the obvious one of ‘Don’t own guns!’, but there is a deeper message that makes its point better given time.

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  •   And I quote...
    "America’s love of the gun comes under fire in this budget-produced yawner."
    - Jules Faber
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