1992, R, 96 min. Directed by Tamra Davis. Starring Drew Barrymore, James LeGros, Joe Dallesandro, Ione Skye, Michael Ironside.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 12, 1993
Boy meets girl meets Smith & Wesson. Tamra Davis' directorial debut is a noir-ish, adrenaline-fueled tale of a love on the border between teen angst and homicide, and it packs a mean, unrelenting punch. Loosely based on Joseph H. Lewis's 1950 film of the same name, Guncrazy has been rescued from the obscurity of pay-TV's Showtime (where it enjoyed a less than phenomenal run last fall) and a concurrent home video release and is now playing in theatres where it belongs. At 16, Anita Minteer (Barrymore) is a doe-eyed loner, living with mom's ex-boyfriend in a grimy trailer on the outskirts of town and trying to make friends via submissive promiscuity (in the town dump, no less). When her history teacher tells the class to find pen pals for an assignment, Anita ends up corresponding with Howard Hickok (LeGros), a soon-to-be-paroled con at the state pen. From this innocuous beginning grows a mutual love that's more along the lines of Bonnie and Clyde than anything else. Released from prison, Howard and Anita are hastily married under the lunatic gaze of Preacher Hank (Billy Drago, as the snake-handling, slightly off-kilter cleric), and before you can say “parole violation,” they're practicing their marksmanship on tin cans, soda bottles, and the occasional, accidental, person. A love story for the Nineties? Hardly. Guncrazy is firmly rooted in the gritty film-noir-in-the-sun mythos of films such as the aforementioned Beatty/Dunaway vehicle and Terrence Malick's Badlands, with a dash of Sam Fuller thrown in to make it sing, and this being the case, it's really more of a retro-movie than one might expect. Barrymore proves -- once again -- that she's better than 98% of the teenage actresses out there; she manages to make Anita simultaneously pathetic in her desperate neediness and powerful in her smoldering, turbo-charged teenage sexuality. Dallesandro appears briefly, as Anita's trailer-trash stepfather-by-default, reminding us just what Andy Warhol saw in him in the first place, and Skye turns up as Joy, Anita's best friend, but it's, far and away, Barrymore's picture. All pouty-lipped femininity and borderline psychosis, her tragic innocence is as curdled as three-month-old milk.