Shoot Or Be Shot
2002, NR, 90 min. Directed by J. Randall Argue. Starring Johanna Stein, Tony Perija, Marcus Ashley, James Healy Jr., Julianne Christie, Scott Rinker, Harry Hamlin, William Shatner.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Jan. 25, 2002
Shoot or Be Shot is a little indie about Harvey Wilkes (Shatner), a lunatic who had escaped from the asylum and wants to be a screenwriter in the worst possible way. Wilkes' backstory is that he was a tech writer whose work was read by nearly everyone in Hollywood -- he wrote the VCR set-up instructions enclosed in all the new units, but was driven mad by all the blinking 12:00 LCD lights everywhere that meant that no one was actually reading his work. On the lam in the California desert, he crosses paths with a low-budget film shoot that is trying to make a movie using the Aleatoric Method: in other words, using no script and leaving everything to chance -- and babes with big breasts. The film in the desert is being produced by low-budget schlockmeister Jack Yeager (Hamlin), who is having a crisis of conscience without the benefit of having a conscience. Film-school reject Ben Steinman (Rinker) is directing. Held at gunpoint, this readymade crew is forced to read Wilkes' screenplay. Shoot or Be Shot tosses another title into the already too precious subgenre of films about filmmaking -- a self-conscious category of films that generally seem more self-satisfying than revelatory. This film is played broadly -- for once, Shatner's over-emphatic acting style blends into the ensemble work. Everyone is stereotype: the self-important filmmaker, the bimbo actress, the soulless producer, the senseless madman. Lots of good throwaway one-liners dot this film's landscape, generating frequent laughs but little in the way of an evolving narrative. Shoot or Be Shot might have been wise to pay heed to the conversation between Steinman and his mother as she ejects her loser son from her house, telling him he has “no discernible talent.” Ben disagrees, replying that he's not talentless, but rather “unrecognized.” If it wouldn't simply add to Shoot or Be Shot's many clichés, the filmmakers might be advised that sometimes mother does know best.