A Gun for Jennifer

Allison/Jennifer Deborah Twiss Detective Perez Benja Kay Jesse Freida Hoops Lt. Rizzo Arthur Nascarella

Allison/Jennifer Deborah Twiss Detective Perez Benja Kay Jesse Freida Hoops Lt. Rizzo Arthur Nascarella

With: Rene Alberta, Veronica Cruz, Tracy Dillon, Sheila Schmidt, Joe Palister , Alan Gordon, James O’Donoghue, Carl Jasper, Eric H.T. Mabius.

A battered Ohio housewife runs off to NYC, where she falls in with an all-female gang of vigilantes who castrate rapists in “A Gun for Jennifer.” Ambitious but rough-hewn indie’s underlying theme is somewhat stronger than its execution, but there should be pocket markets for intense, sometimes funny pic wherever viewers hanker to see assertive women give abusive males a lethal dose of their own medicine.

Allison (Deborah Twiss, a statuesque looker who produced, co-wrote and stars) is attacked straight off the bus near the Port Authority. A clan of five armed women brutally slays her assailants but refuses to let Allison go her own way since she knows too much. When asked to identify herself, she borrows the moniker “Jennifer” from the marquee of a sofa-bed showroom.

The women, led by no-nonsense Jesse (Freida Hoops, in a lean, edgy perf), tend bar and go-go dance as a cover for their illegal activities — killing mostly well-connected men known to have abused women or children. As the castration murders pile up, a black female cop, Billie Perez (Benja Kay), and her matineeidol junior partner (Joe Palister) begin to think the perps might be women, but cross swords with doubting fellow homicide detectives.

Pic mutates into a blood rite that goes wrong when Jesse, at first shrewd, becomes too obsessed for her own good. Classic coda caps things with some humor.

A B movie with nary a C cup on its mind, pic features plenty of violence but no sex. In a brief but memorable concert insert, the lead singer of lesbian punk band Tribe 8 “castrates” herself with a blade and a [7mvery[22;27m realistic upscale dildo. Pic does not advocate violence per se, and is firmly situated in a realm where actions have consequences.

Debut helmer Todd Morris struggles to give a broad selection of plot points their due on a limited budget. Thesping is uneven; perfunctory lensing (with an OK blowup from 16mm) and unobtrusive editing get the job done. Pic has a definite gritty NYC feel, nicely matched by an inventive indie score.

A Gun for Jennifer

Production: A Conspiracy Films production. (International sales: Conspiracy, N.Y.) Produced by Deborah Twiss. Directed by Todd Morris. Screenplay, Deborah Twiss, Morris.

Crew: Camera (color), David Tumblety, Joe Genaro; editors, Rachel Warden, Morris; music, J.F. Coleman; sound design (Ultra-Stereo), Digit Audio; effects and makeup, Rob Benevides. Reviewed at L'Etrange Festival, Paris, Aug. 17, 1996. (Also in Cambridge Film Festival, England.) Running time: 91 MIN.

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