CANNES–A shoot-’em-up exploitationer with a few interesting ideas floating around in it, “Guncrazy” lacks the exhilaration of a first-class lovers-on-the-run crime drama. After a promising beginning, competently made indie effort settles into a surprisingly somber mood that suppresses the possibilities latent in the story and actors. A flashy campaign built around Drew Barrymore as bad girl could generate some quick coin on the action circuit, with better results in store on video.
Matthew Bright’s original screenplay contains echoes of Joseph H. Lewis’ B classic, “Gun Crazy,” as well as of “Bonnie And Clyde,” among other similarly plotted tales of youth gone wild. But script is not explicitly based on any recognizable antecedents, as characters and situations are thoroughly modern in sociological conception and physicalized details.
Barrymore plays Anita, a ripe, lower-class 16-year-old whose lack of possibilities and parental guidance makes her ready for the first interesting opportunity that comes along. The way Anita’s personality is sketched in is one of the most interesting elements in the picture.
Very matter-of-factly, she is presented as the class slut, a girl who will willingly have sex with different boys because it’s the only way she can feel liked. As it happens, she also lets herself be bedded by her absent mother’s b.f. (Joe Dallesandro), with whom she shares a miserable trailer.
A high school class pen pal project prompts her to start a correspondence with an imprisoned man whose direct emotionalism touches Anita so much that they are quickly conducting a love affair by post.
When the convict, Howard (James LeGros), writes that “I always dreamed of a girl who likes guns,” Anita instantly starts practicing shooting, which leads her to kill Mom’s beau when he doesn’t take too kindly to her calling off their special relationship.
Helping spring Howard early by finding him a job, Anita welcomes him with feverish anticipation, but, in a nod to “Bonnie And Clyde,” understands when he says he’s not really ready for sex.
Instead, to demonstrate his willingness to reform, he becomes a born-again Christian, and they try to live the straight life.
But gunlust begins to get the better of them and, almost by accident, they begin killing.
Aside from Anita’s character, which Barrymore pulls off impressively, main points of interest lie in the dismal portrait of a society that can scarcely help but breed criminal-minded kids.
Stuck in an ugly rural California town, with dumb, horny rednecks on one side , righteous squares on the other and Jesus freaks around the fringe, Anita can hardly be blamed for rebelling.
Unfortunately, virtually eliminating the sexual element from Anita and Howard’s relationship saps the story of much of the thrill it might have had.
Furthermore, filmmakers don’t follow up on their initial sociological observations with any broader points. Ed Tomney’s somber, plaintive score also serves to dampen the proceedings.
Still, musicvideo director Tamra Davis makes a creditable debut in territory that has already been mined many times over.
James LeGros makes less of an impression here than in “My New Gun,” also shown in Cannes. Other performances and tech credits are OK.