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Featured TV on DVD Review: The Gunslingers

November 14th, 2010

The Gunslingers - Buy from Amazon

The Gunslingers was made in 2009 under the name The Ecstasy of Gold, which is the name of one of the track on the The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Invoking that film is promising quite a bit, but can it deliver?

The Movie

The film starts by introducing Butch Norton, a bounty hunter, as he is bringing in Rattler Fenton, who tries to convince Butch they should be business partners instead. Apparently Rattler found him a whole mess of gold and he's willing to give 50% of it to Butch, if Butch will let him go. ... 60%. ... 70%?

Meanwhile, we meet Rattler's partner, Hiram Firth, who is escorting two Japanese sisters, Akemi and Otsu. Turns out their father is in so much debt that the only way out was to sell his daughters into prostitution. While Hiram is on his way to meet Rattler to discuss getting the gold, their stagecoach is ambushed by Mondego and his gang, who has learned of Rattler's gold. They get the jump on the guy by setting off some dynamite as the stagecoach goes by, which kills Otsu. After finding out where he was to meet Rattler, Mondego kills Hiram; however, he didn't know Akemi was in the stagecoach as well, and she's able to hear everything.

Meanwhile back with Butch. He's getting ready to turn in Rattler to the right authority. In this case the authority is Mr. Bostock, of Bostock County, and his two sons, who along with two Mexican servants appear to be everyone in Bostock County. There is a snag, as the bounty says $100, but Butch wants $200. The disagreement escalates, resulting in Butch being placed in jail, right along with Rattler, who is in the next cell over. (Although in this case, calling it a cell is overstating things.) Rattler tries to talk himself out of jail, but the only one he sees is Charley Chavez, who is not exactly a talkative person, and Charley's brother, Puco. Meanwhile, Butch is digging out of jail and given the state of the jail he's liable to get out first. At least that's the case till he shows Charley a sample of the gold. Suddenly the Chavez brothers are very interested in getting Rattler out of prison, but they are going to have to get through the Bostock clan first. And whoever survives that will still have to deal with Mondego and his gang.

This film was co-written and directed by Adam Oxsen, who also produced the movie. This film represents his first feature-length movie and you can tell. There's serious pacing problems throughout the movie and there's a real deficit of sympathetic characters in this movie. Akemi's quest for revenge was the most compelling storyline and we also learn the most about her and this helps. On the one hand, Butch Norton is at least a charismatic bounty hunter and some of his lines are fun. On the other hand, Butch got into the mess he was in because he refused to take the posted bounty on Rattler. It's not like Mr. Bostock was ripping him off by only offering half the posted bounty. It's hard to care about his plight when his troubles are of his own making. Finally, the Chavez brothers are first shown to be the recipients of abuse from the Bostocks, but while that's mitigating circumstances for turning on them, they are still willing to kill to get Rattler out of jail, even though he was a murderer, and a serial rapist. And these are supposed to be the good guys?

Any sympathy I might have for the characters ends when the fighting starts, because they suck at it. The characters are terrible at fighting, and in one fight, more innocent bystanders get killed than intended targets. Also, clearly this movie doesn't have a large budget, but perhaps spending a bit more money on fight scene choreography would have been worth it. Or get more experienced stunt people involved that can sell taking a hit, so there wouldn't have to be so many cuts. For that matter, there are a lot of quick cuts for no reason that I can think of. In one scene the Chavez brothers are carrying Butch into his cell and there were several quick cuts that seemed totally superfluous. Maybe they were going for style, but it didn't work.

Keep the Akemi storyline, make Butch Norton go after Mondego's gang directly for their bounty, and have the Chavez brothers find a dying Rattler, who tells them of the gold, thus making all four of them meet up. Improve the fight scenes, or work better within your limitations, and you have the basis for a much better movie.

The Extras

The DVD has a 7-minute screen to storyboard comparison, a 2-minute alternate opening, and a 12-minute behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the climactic fight. Since it is direct-to-DVD, this isn't bad.

The Verdict

Going into The Gunslingers, I wasn't expecting an award-winning movie; however, it still failed to live up to lowered expectations. The DVD is better than expected, but even so, at the most it is worth a rental. At the most. And that's only if you are interested in the new wave of low budget Westerns.

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Filed under: Video Review, Ecstasy of Gold