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"Are there any Hispanics in this town? Because right now that's the only ethnicity that hasn't kicked my ass yet."
Heard it before? You'll get that feeling a lot with Guns, Girls and Gambling (Blu-ray).
Facts of the Case
When a priceless Apache war mask is stolen from an Indian casino, all hell breaks loose. Caught in the middle of all this madness is John Smith (Christian Slater, True Romance), who—despite professing his innocence—finds himself the prime suspect in the robbery.
After making a dramatic escape from the casino, John finds himself pursued by a deadly Apache warrior, a cowboy hit man (Jeff Fahey, Planet Terror), a six-foot-tall blonde assassin (Helena Mattsson), two corrupt sheriffs (Dane Cook and Sam Trammell), and a quartet of Elvis impersonators (Gary Oldman, Chris Kattan, Tony Cox, and Anthony Brandon Wong), who all believe he has the mask and will stop at nothing to get it.
I suspect writer-director Michael Winnick is going to catch a lot of flak for Guns, Girls and Gambling, solely due to the fact it bears a striking resemblance to several other films, chief amongst them being Smokin' Aces and Lucky Number Slevin, while the specter of Guy Ritchie (Snatch) is never far away. There's nary an ounce of originality to be found within the entire production—hell, even the opening credits play like a mashup of the title sequences to RocknRolla and Casino Royale. That lack of originality is unfortunate, as it massively undermines what is an otherwise polished and entertaining movie. Winnick's story is littered with twists and turns that would, ordinarily, keep the viewer on the edge of their seat. Here, however, the striking similarity (some might suggest copying) to other film's means we can see what is coming far too early, thus robbing Guns, Girls and Gambling of the impact it desperately needed.
While we're being hard on Winnick and his film, let's address the uneven pacing, or rather the way the second act threatens to derail the entire film as it seems to get stuck in a continuous loop. The opening act bursts onto the screen with all the energy of a five-year-old on a sugar rush, while the final act throws in twist after twist. The second act begins well enough, but soon becomes tiresome as we seem to get the same two scenes repeat themselves, as John Smith bumps into another of the Elvis impersonators who screwed him over, then has a run in with either Jeff Fahey's The Cowboy or Helena Mattsson's deadly assassin known as The Blonde.
The flipside to all this doom and gloom is a cast that, thanks to some game performances, makes the movie entirely watchable. Christian Slater is hardly pushed in the role of John Smith, as it basically allows him to be himself (or at least the version of himself he has been portraying on screen for years). The rest of the names in the cast, which includes Gary Oldman, Jeff Fahey, Dane Cook, Tony Cox, and Powers Boothe really on get a handful of scenes each, but each is delivered with real gusto—particularly Oldman's Elvis—leaving Slater to carry the majority of the film with his young co-star Megan Park (Charlie Bartlett).
Of course, the large cast does mean that we really only get sketches of characters. Jeff Fahey's Cowboy may appear cool, but he completely lacks substance, while some of the gimmicks employed—most notably having The Blonde quote Edgar Allan Poe before letting loose a hail of bullets—become tiresome very quickly, and reek of an attempt to ape the far richer dialogue one would find in a Tarantino movie.
Still, Winnick instills his film with a good sense of humor. Even with all the beatings, threats, and murders going on, the movie retains its lightheartedness. There are a couple of good running gags; one in particular that stands out focuses on political correctness, and results in two of the film's funnier moments. It is this humor that makes the incessant twists that blight the final act bearable, and mean that Guns, Girls and Gambling gets a recommendation from me.
Universal's Guns, Girls and Gambling (Blu-ray) boasts an excellent transfer. The picture is razor sharp, and packs in a remarkable amount of detail. Colors are natural, with black levels suitably deep. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track sports clean dialogue and effects in what is a well-balanced mix. Unfortunately the Blu-ray contains zero extras, which is clearly disappointing.
There is nothing truly remarkable about Guns, Girls and Gambling, as it consistently treads extremely familiar territory. And yet the sheer enthusiasm of all involved is infectious, making this a film that is impossible not to like—even if the entire production does occasionally come close to collapsing in on itself.
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