April 5, 2024

MEAN GUNS : An Off-Kilter Killfest

MEAN GUNS (Blu-ray)
1997 / 104 min
Review by Mr. Bonnie😼

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call Mean Guns a good action movie, but there’s too much of a weird-ass vibe to dismiss it entirely.

A crime organization known as The Syndicate has bankrolled a maximum security prison in the middle of downtown Los Angeles. But before they turn it over to the city, they decide to use the place to purge a few dozen associates who supposedly betrayed them. So when a variety of thugs and killers arrive, they find themselves trapped and forced to fight to the death, with the three remaining survivors splitting a $10 million prize. They are also provided with weapons to make sure the contest is over within six hours (otherwise everyone will die).

That’s the essential plot, which is inherently ridiculous, but not what makes Mean Guns such a perplexing way to kill two hours. With the exception of Cam (Deborah Van Valkenburgh), a mob accountant who didn’t know she was a mob accountant, everyone shows up willingly. One main character, Lou (Christopher Lambert), actually drives up with a kid in the car and tells her to wait there until he’s finished. Rather than be horrified, most of these people seem genuinely excited to be fighting for their lives. Even the syndicate boss who gathered everyone there, snarling platinum-toothed master-of-ceremonies Vincent Moon (Ice-T), gets in on the action.

Christopher Lambert corners his hairstylist.
Stranger yet is the dialogue, which is sometimes funny, other times really bizarre, such as Marcus’ frequent monologues where he appears to be saying something deep, but I’ll be damned if I know what he’s talking about. Character behavior often changes without warning, so we ultimately don’t know who to root for or against, including the kid, who not only appears unfazed by the surrounding mayhem, she even asks Marcus to shoot somebody at one point. Maybe it’s just me, but the tonal, character and narrative inconsistencies appear to be by design.

Much of the credit (or blame) must go to the late Albert Pyun, the prolific director behind such B-movie bonanzas as The Sword and the Sorcerer, Cyborg, Brainsmasher…A Love Story and more Nemesis movies than anyone asked for. He also has the distinction of being the first to bring Captain America to the screen, with hilarious results. I wouldn’t call those movies any good either, but with Mean Guns, he seems to be striving for a slightly off-kilter look and tone. To what end, I don’t know. Maybe Pyun doesn’t either, but at least he inserts just enough WTF moments to keep our attention.


Mean Guns needs them, too, because the action itself is perfunctory and surprisingly bloodless, which soon becomes pretty rote. Movies consisting of a single sustained conflict are difficult to pull off successfully and Pyun isn’t up to the challenge. However, the quirky curveballs, oddball characters, strange music score and all-in performances keep it from getting too boring.


INTERVIEWS - Individual interviews (running 20-30 minutes each) featuring producer Gary Schmoleller, executive producer Paul Rosenblum and composer Anthony Riparetti. All three discuss their own career histories and making movies with director Albert Pyun. 

OPTIONAL INTRODUCTION - By director Albert Pyun.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Albert Pyun. 




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