As overbearing as a Black Sabbath golden oldie but not half as funny, “Gun Shy” is the sort of leaden misfire in which actors labor mightily to transform themselves into cartoon caricatures in a desperate (and largely unsuccessful) attempt to make viewers think, despite all evidence to the contrary, they are watching a comedy. Credit lead player Antonio Banderas for providing a few random moments of amusement as a pampered and petulant burned-out rock star who’s forced to take action, or at least snap out of his self-centered indolence, when his ex-supermodel wife is kidnapped during their vacation in his native Chile. But, really, those random moments are not nearly enough to recommend this witless and graceless farce.
With his flowing locks and garish attire, Banderas often comes across as a walking and talking sight gag while portraying Turk Henry, the former bassist for Metal Assassin, a rowdy ensemble of headbangers whose hit list included such crowd-pleasing ditties as “Teenage Ass Patrol.” Ever since he was discarded by his bandmates, Turk has dedicated himself to slothful seclusion in his Malibu mansion, where he spends most of his days waxing nostalgic for his wild times as a hedonist rock star. Trouble is, his decadence has left him too depleted to manage much in the way of bad behavior: When he angrily decides to toss his big-screen TV into his swimming pool, he relies on his servants to do the actual dunking.
When Sheila (Olga Kurylenko), his enabling but not infinitely patient wife, suggests they get out of their rut and take a trip to Chile, Turk reluctantly — very, very reluctantly — agrees to the sojourn. Shortly after their arrival, however, Sheila is grabbed by a motley crew of first-time kidnappers (actually some financially strapped nice guys who revere Metal Assassin and know all the lyrics to “Teenage Ass Patrol”). The good news: Turk can easily afford to pay the $1 million ransom. The bad news: He’s repeatedly thwarted in his efforts to retrieve his wife by Ben Hardin (Mark Valley), a discontent functionary at the local U.S. embassy who thinks — or, to be more precise, hopes — that the kidnappers are terrorists. Even if they’re not, well, there’s a $1 million ransom to confiscate.
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It’s entirely possible that more gifted filmmakers could have parlayed this premise into a genuine laugh riot. Neither director Simon West (“Con Air,” “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”) nor screenwriters Mark Haskell Smith and Toby Davies (working from Smith’s novel) are capable of providing anything other than shrill silliness amped up to 11 and beyond. It doesn’t help much that many of the supporting players — especially Valley, who’s rather too convincing as an obnoxious lout, and Jesse Johnson as a sexist Aussie mercenary — have been encouraged to overact at the top of their lungs. It helps even less that just when it seems the movie has mercifully drawn to a conclusion, it drags on for several more minutes of song, dance and broadly played tomfoolery during the unduly protracted closing credits.
Here and there throughout “Gun Shy,” there are snippets of a Metal Assassin music video for “Teenage Ass Patrol.” Maybe West and his collaborators should have simply stopped after completing that, and quit while they were behind.