Gun Shy



USA 2000
director – Eric Blakeney
script – Eric Blakeney
cinematographer – Tom Richmond
stars – Liam Neeson, Oliver Platt, Sandra Bullock
101 minutes

Gun Shy is undeniably a mess, but it isn’t quite a disaster either. This is writer-director Blakeney’s first film – which you’d guess pretty quickly even if you didn’t know beforehand – and he sufficient shows flashes of originality in both his roles to suggest that he may well progress to competence and beyond. Saying that, the only people who won’t find this movie a deeply unsatisfying experience will be either a) fans of Neeson, Platt or Bullock or b) budding screenwriters and directors, for whom it could stand as a textbook example of How Good Intentions Go Badly Wrong.

The opening scene – in which undercover FBI agent Neeson is slumped in an airport toilet psyching himself up for a tricky job – is among the worst I have seen in recent films. Full of flashbacks to a previous, disastrous, professional episode, it is over-directed, confusingly edited, under-written and doesn’t even make sense in the light of what follows. The final scene is almost as bad, for similar reasons – you aren’t exactly sure what’s going on, but whatever it is, you don’t believe it. In between, the film isn’t without merit or interest, largely thanks to the efforts of the ever-reliable Platt, but hopes that Blakeney might get a grip on his material prove sadly deceptive.

The film never quite knows what it wants to be. The plot has Neeson’s nervy cop seeking stability through psychiatric analysis and men’s group confessionals. Plagued by bowel problems, he’s receives an enema from nurse Bullock, which sparks off an aggressively cute romance between the two. As well as being a dab hand with colonic irrigation, Bullock is also an avid gardener – this enables the pair to have a cosy, if soily tryst beneath the stars in the roof garden of Bullock’s apartment, but it isn’t followed through. Not even when Platt – as a violent but insecure gangster Neeson needs to win the confidence of – turns out to be a frustrated tomato grower himself.

The best scenes are the two-handers between Platt and Neeson, in which Blakeney manages to craft believable three-dimensional characters engaging in unpredictable interaction – but as soon as he moves back to the main plot he becomes unstuck. There’s an especially irritating and unlikely scene in which all the main characters coincidentally visit the same ideal home exhibition at the same time – Blakeney’s inexperience is most obvious in a blindingly redundant shot along the walls of a Casbah-style villa as Neeson and Bullock run down some stairs. Even worse is the film’s final shot, which is plopped down in the middle of the credits and makes no sense whatsoever.

Bullock is also a problem – she’s the producer of the film, and, presumably wary of hogging the screen, she goes too far in the other direction and her character ends up underdeveloped, occupying neither a leading nor a supporting role. The film itself similarly falls awkwardly between stools, with aspects of thriller, romance and comedy clashing together when they should be smoothly blending. Towards the end Blakeney lazily opts for cheap revelations and plot twists, which is all the more disappointing because the Neeson-Platt scenes are evidence that he’s clearly capable of a lot better. Maybe next time.


by Neil Young
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