Mean Guns resembles the kind of movie Quentin Tarantino would’ve made if he’d grown up under power lines. The filmmakers desperately try to mimic QT’s edgy dialogue and operatic flourishes of gun violence, but they just don’t have the geeky swagger and…well, competence to pull any of it off. This results in the bad karaoke version of an action flick, where the lyrics are understood, but not the melody, rhythm, or cadence. Put another way: If you enjoy watching somebody fumble-f*ck their way through “Cheeseburger in Paradise” after way too many margs, this might be the beautiful disaster you’ve been looking for.
The, ahem, “plot” is a hybrid of Laser Tag, The Most Dangerous Game, and the faint smell of butthole: One hundred assorted lowlifes assemble in a brand new prison. The warden (Ice-T) is actually a powerful mob boss within a crime syndicate. He informs the attendees they are now pawns in his murderous game. Each contestant will have six hours to wipe everyone else out and collect $10 million in cash, which must be split with exactly two other survivors. If more than three people survive, everybody dies. If anybody tries to escape, they will be shot by a sniper. Or something like that.
Naturally, a few key characters emerge. Lou (Christopher Lambert) is a ruthless blonde killer. Marcus (Michael Halsey, looking like a cross between Ian McKellan and Charles Bronson) plays the requisite anti-hero. D (Kimberly Warren) is…um, another ruthless blonde killer. And there are two bickering idiots (Yuji Okumoto and Thom Matthews). And, aw to hell with it. There’s a buncha people you won’t care about, okay?!
Now, let’s unpack this fever dream, shall we? Mean Guns features so many levels of ineptitude, it makes my brain sizzle like a skillet of fajitas. First off, the entire movie is shot in a bizarre blue tint, like somebody stuck an aqua-hued bottle of Gatorade in front of the camera. This Papa Smurf aesthetic actually compliments the film’s unnatural aspect ratio, which makes every scene feel like it’s being filmed by an investigative reporter with a hidden camera in his pocket protector. Finally, we have the soundtrack, featuring loud and relentless mambo music. There were moments I swore this was the world’s weirdest telenovela.
If the filmmaking fundamentals of Mean Guns are a dick in the mashed potatoes, you can just imagine what the script is like. The dialogue alternates between flowery snippets of blank verse (“Redemption separates the wheat from the shaft,” sayeth Ice-T.) and obnoxious banter akin to bratty teen boys on a PS5 livestream. If I didn’t know this film was made in 1997, I would’ve bet it was written by malfunctioning A.I.
As for the performances, most of them fall just a notch below Steven Seagal’s level. Yeah, you read that right. Ice-T has a mouth of platinum teeth, which comes in handy when he decides to gnaw on the scenery. Lambert lets his blonde hairdo and black trenchcoat do most of the acting for him. You probably won’t recognize many other actors. On the basis of this film, I’m sure most of them are glad.
Simply put, Mean Guns is a cinematic atrocity. It makes Lionheart look like Lawrence of Arabia. At the same time, bad movie fans might get some strong chuckles here and there. This karaoke is so bad, it’s actually kinda good. If that doesn’t sound intriguing, consider yourself warned.
110 min. R. Amazon Video.