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Man with a Gun

Beyond-generic title says everything you need to know about this by-the-numbers neo-noir. Midlevel star power may be enough to open "Man With a Gun" in a few action outlets next year, but then it's straight to vidville, sweetheart.

With:
John Hardin ... Michael Madsen Rena/Kathy ... Jennifer Tilly Jack Rushton ... Gary Busey Philip Marquand ... Robert Loggia Roy Burchill ... Ian Tracey Henry Griggs ... Bill Cobbs

Beyond-generic title says everything you need to know about this by-the-numbers neo-noir. Midlevel star power may be enough to open “Man With a Gun” in a few action outlets next year, but then it’s straight to vidville, sweetheart.

Michael Madsen turns in an appropriately moody perf as the well-named Hardin, a seen-it-all hit man who takes it in stride when his regular employer, gang boss Jack Rushton (Gary Busey), asks him to take out his own g.f. Rena (Jennifer Tilly), who also happens to be Rushton’s ex, and the owner of a shiny CD-ROM — the latest movie accessory — packed with unsettling info.

Rena’s even more blithe about the news, as she figures she can sub her innocent twin sister Kathy (also Tilly, natch) for the needed corpse. As anyone who’s ever seen a movie will figure, Hardin softens up once he actually meets his intended victim, and the plan starts unraveling.

Tilly has a good time with her evil-twin shtick, but the goody-two-shoes part (which gives her a chance to look remarkably like her real sis, Meg) is grossly underwritten, and there’s no attempt to explain how these mismatched siblings turned out so different. Remarkably, they never even meet, leaving Tilly with less than two halves of a role to toy with.

The bad guys fare better, but Busey’s been to this particular well too often; his strained grimace is more exhausting than fun to watch. Robert Loggia is quietly effective as a mellowed mob chief and Ian Tracey injects some energy as Rushton’s unreliable nephew. Best of all is Bill Cobbs, who stands out in his patented sage-black-buddy role, mainly because he adds a touch of humanity to the mechanical proceedings.

Pic’s only real plus is atmospheric, rain-soaked, Vancouver-area lensing from Jan Kiesser, and the jazzy score is a cut above George Blondheim’s usual work.

Man with a Gun

Production: An October Films release of a Northwood Pictures production. Produced by Robert K. MacLean. Executive producers, Judith Feldman, Sarah Woodside Gallagher. Directed by David Wyles. Screenplay by Laurie Finstad-Knizhik, based on the novel, "The Shroud Society," by High C. Rae.

Crew: Camera (color), Jan Kiesser; editor , Lenka Svab; music, George Blondheim; production design, Michael Joy; costume design, Lyn Kelly; associate producer, Sandi Richter; casting, Georgeanne Walken , Sheila Jaffe. Reviewed on vidcassette, Vancouver, Oct. 9, 1995. (In Vancouver Film Festival.) Running time: 100 MIN.

With: John Hardin ... Michael Madsen Rena/Kathy ... Jennifer Tilly Jack Rushton ... Gary Busey Philip Marquand ... Robert Loggia Roy Burchill ... Ian Tracey Henry Griggs ... Bill Cobbs

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