2000, R, 102 min. Directed by Eric Blakeney. Starring Liam Neeson, Oliver Platt, Sandra Bullock, Richard Schiff, Mitch Pileggi, Jose Zuniga, Andrew Lauer, Paul Ben-Victor, Michael Mantell.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 21, 2000
Gun shy is right: This ensemble comedy-drama from first-time director/writer Blakeney is about as interesting as a mayo sandwich on day-old Wonder Bread. It's a downright odd hybrid of feel-good comedics and mobster clichés that leaves you scratching your head as you exit the theatre: What were they thinking? Apparently they were thinking that the world is in dire need of another film revolving around the precarious mental states of gun-wielding testosterone cases (this in the wake of Analyze This, The Sopranos, et al). And Blakeney actually struggles to give us a new angle from which to view this increasingly tiresome sub-genre. You can see him straining, but neither his script -- which can't seem to make up its mind whether it wants to be a comedy or not -- nor his directorial chops are up to the task. You know you're in for a rough ride when even Sandra Bullock's tomboyish charm comes off flat and uninspired. (Fault Blakeney's script for that problem -- Bullock's quirky character is woefully underused and underwritten, though the actress surely gets an E for Effort in Extremis here.) The film's main conceit belongs to Neeson as DEA agent Charlie, who, as the film opens, is suffering what appears to be a walloping panic attack in an airport men's room. Scrunched down beside the American Standard, briefcase by his side, he runs through the many reasons why he can't accept his current job. Later on he hooks up with a Manhattan shrink and doctors encounter group, and lays it all out for them. Charlie is in town to arrange a money-laundering operation between local minor mob boss Fulvio Nesstra (Platt) and a pair of gay Colombian drug runners (Zuniga, Michael DeLorenzo). Crippled by self-doubt and a recurring nightmare courtesy of his last botched job (in which his partner was given a 9mm colonic by Taylor Negron -- enough to give any man pause), Charlie's sick of living life as a deep-cover agent, on the run, moving from luxury suite to luxury suite, a man alone. Troubled by a persistent bowel problem (a recurring theme in the film -- Platt's Fulvio suffers from prostate woes), Charlie meets and begins seeing his nurse, “enema queen” Judy (Bullock), who advises him to chill out and work in the garden more. Gun Shy is remarkable for its restraint, both comedically and in the spitting lead department. That's also its chief drawback; the comic moments are drastically underplayed, with the possible exception of the always brilliant Platt, and Neeson goes through the role with his eyes at half-mast. He's so panicked he's almost comatose, though his eyes are open enough to embrace Bullock's obvious charms. Her role, though, seems almost an afterthought. There' s less than nothing to it, and it could have been played, as written, by just about anyone. That's no slight at Bullock, who manages to bring that dark-eyed, winsome quirkiness to everything she does, but really, the role is a phantom. Only Platt scores aces with his anger-management-challenged Fulvio, a mobster so insecure that he nearly chops off his neighbor's hand on suspicion of newspaper theft. That particular scene is a subtly creepy bit of slapstick. The rest of Gun Shy, however, is creepily subtle, too shy by half.