American Gun (2002)


American Gun (2002) Review

James Coburn's final film went straight to video, and alas it's nothing special. American Gun tells the story of Martin Tillman, whose daughter (Virginia Madsen) is suddenly shot and killed. (On Christmas, no less.) He then does possibly the least sensible thing on earth: He goes on a nationwide journey to find out where the gun that killed her came from, and whose hands it passed through on the way to his neck of the woods. This leads him from the gun factory to the dealer to various thugs until he gets all the way back home. Putting aside the fact that it would be next to impossible to follow such a chain of ownership, we immediately wonder how a geriatric like Coburn is going to handle all this travel -- and it ain't exactly to the most scenic parts of the country.

Never mind all that, this is a journey of self-discovery, as Martin has some demons he's obviously trying to exorcise. He's got a granddaughter to atone with, a wife who's a bit distant, and a dead daughter, of course. By the end we've got a whopper of a secret in store, but still it's a little hard to swallow this Twenty Bucks-style road trip.

Coburn is always a treat to watch, but here he looks fatigued and sleepwalking through much of the performance. The few bright spots don't make up for the rest of the film, and the numerous plot holes certainly don't either. American Gun is designed -- desperately -- to be a weepy thinkpiece, but it ends up tugging so hard at the heartstrings that they threaten to break off. Coburn fans may find parts of the movie worthwhile (and as his last film, it's at least of historical interest), but on the whole American Gun is firing blanks.

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