Judge William Lee prays they never make a nude Nuns on the Run.
This sister is one bad mother!
After the Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez double-bill effort Grindhouse disappointed at the box office, fans lamented that talented filmmakers would be less likely to flex their creative muscles in the arena of exploitation movies. Nevertheless, feature length versions of Machete and Hobo with a Shotgun were made for the audiences that appreciate them. Cheaply-made schlock shouldn't be an excuse for lowering standards, however, and Nude Nuns with Big Guns is an example of tasteless filmmaking disguised as cult genre entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Sister Sarah (Asun Ortego) devoted herself to serving God, but her life is a living hell. The convent is a front for drug traffickers and her priests are in cahoots with a biker gang. After Sarah is drugged and put into service at a brothel, she receives a message from God to seek bloody vengeance. Rescued and equipped by a sympathetic old man, she wages a one-woman battle against her former captors.
The makers of Nude Nuns with Big Guns imply enough of an association with Robert Rodriguez that they might have to pay royalties to the maverick filmmaker. The music for this movie is oh-so-similar to Planet Terror and the Freak Show Entertainment logo with the fireball in the background reminds me a lot of the logo for Rodriguez's Troublemaker Studios. However, director Joseph Guzman's movie lacks the joy and go-for-broke exuberance that can make a low-rent effort entertaining despite its limitations. This movie banks on its gimmicky title and does little more than pander to low tastes.
Nudity is plentiful but almost none of it is photographed in an attractive manner. The nuns are forced to work in the cocaine packing facility naked. Maybe this is because the priests fear they might steal some of the product but that level of explanation would be too complex for this movie. The bikers hang out in brothels, strip clubs and bars where naked women are passed out over the counter. Strung-out or enslaved are the main reasons for female nudity but the movie also throws in a lesbian sex scene and a pair of rapes for good measure.
Violence consists mainly of gunfights that are staged in a lazy manner. The editing is straightforward and the camera soaks up the bullet wounds and splatter effects with relish. Considering how slowly Sister Sarah moves, it's a miracle she isn't made into Swiss cheese. Perhaps she really is doing the will of God? Certainly, nothing happens on screen to explain her invulnerability to bullets or her sudden expert marksmanship. The main bad guy, Chavo (David Castro, The Lincoln Lawyer), receives a pretty horrendous death. Disappointingly, his henchman and go-to rapist Kickstand (Xango Henry, Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star) bites the dust too easily.
The barest of scripts links the nude scenes with the violent scenes, and sometimes they're the same scenes. The plot can be summarized simply: Sister Sarah is abused, and then she gets revenge. The script takes delight implicating the church in the wrongdoings but for all the depth that is afforded to the villains, they could just as well have been dairy farmers. Chavo, the leader of the bike gang, is the only character with any dimension and I'm being generous when I say that. He has a dark sense of humor, like when he warns the gang of a vigilante gunning for bad guys and then reminds them, "We are the bad guys." Chavo has moments where he's smoothly menacing and others where he's bonkers. It feels like these moments were crafted for each individual scene rather than working toward a complete picture of the character. Castro's performance, like the rest of the movie, grabs your attention in short, noisy moments but it doesn't add up to anything memorable.
Nude Nuns with Big Guns (Blu-ray) disappoints on the technical level as well. The 1.78:1/1080p high definition picture quality is moderately better than a DVD transfer in terms of color saturation and overall sharpness. The color palette is rather earthy and there is good richness of texture in a few interior scenes showing that at least the art direction and set design were given proper attention. The high contrast image makes the shadows murky and the highlights overblown. At random times, the picture adopts a deep color cast, which is definitely an intentional, stylistic effect, but it's just covering up a crummy looking picture.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 but it's thoroughly unimpressive. During the first ten minutes of the movie, the dialogue was mixed way too low in comparison to the music. Cranking up the volume only marginally improved audibility but did nothing for clarity. A few times, when characters are shouting, the dialogue recording is distorted. I didn't remember if the surround mix was used to any effect and only notice that it was mixed in 5.1 when I looked at the back cover. The music is presented quite loud and clear. Did I mention how it reminds me of the music from Planet Terror?
The original short film, running four minutes, is included on the disc. It looks like a practice effort for one scene that is actually written and staged better in the feature. Whether deliberate or not, it's in very rough shape visually showing discoloration and physical damage. Also included on the disc is the trailer reminding you this is from the people that brought you Run! Bitch! Run!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
If you really don't care about story and character development (and haven't used the word misogyny in a sentence before) and just want to see lots of boobs and lesbian sex and bloody violence, then perhaps you'll find some value in this movie. The novelty of seeing a nun with a massive arsenal wasting bad guys might be amusing enough for some. Plus, Sister Sarah's Catholic-laced quips such as "Forgive me, Lord, for I am about to sin" might elicit some chuckles if you're suitably wasted.
The movie delivers what its title promises, but to accept that as a measure of accomplishment requires setting the bar very low. Guzman has surely delivered the cheap thrills of nudity and violence but cheapening out on story and characters is where viewers will feel short-changed. Even if you skip ahead to the "good parts" (I use that term liberally here) it's hard to recommend this one.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
• Short Film
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