When I hear about a new "independent film," I run for my life.
Pretty soon some slackers with hip accents are gonna be taking up space on the screen, gazing into their navels while engaging in witty repartee about their dysfunctional childhoods and occasionally having sex with one another. Miramax will release it, and the prettiest actress will go on MTV to promote it, and a week later we'll all be going "That was so QUIRKY."
That's pretty much what's going on in "A Girl, Three Guys and a Gun," even though it was released by Roger Corman's New Horizons, which would normally guarantee a flick with true exploitation roots. Alas, Roger is returning to his habits of the early eighties, when he was releasing Ingmar Bergman films AND psychodramas starring Jamie Lee Curtis. He snuck one in on us! This is an art film disguised as a drive-in movie.
Anyhoo, it does have its moments. The three guys in the title are friends who decide to change their lives and run away "to the city" by knocking off a senior citizens bingo parlor. That's almost a funny idea, but the caper is oddly staged, and the expected sequence of running from the cops -- always the best part of a caper flick -- doesn't ever develop because the two stooge detectives looking for them are lame morons.
Instead what happens is the three robbers are reduced to stealing a car and taking hostages when their own car breaks down, and the hostages they happen to take are the abusive Dave and his teary-eyed girlfriend Hope.
Hope is the main reason to watch this sucker, thanks to the performance of Tracy Zahoryin, best known as the girl in a commercial for Levi's who gets in an elevator with her belly button showing next to a guy who fantasizes about their whole life together during the 70-floor ride down.
He doesn't get the girl, and neither does anybody in this movie, but Brent Florence -- the director, writer, producer and star -- all but dies trying.
This plot reminds me a LOT of "Bottle Rocket," and I think that's what they were going for: three zany amateurs try crime and learn about themselves in the process. One character has a neglectful mom, another an absent dad, and there's a whole lot of talking about how it's important not to be "one of those guys"--meaning abusive selfish boyfriends like Dave.
It doesn't really hang together as a comedy, or a caper film, and ends up being a muddled mess -- deadly serious one minute, ridiculously comic the next (the cops arrest a guy who is bound and gagged because he's acting suspicious), and going nowhere in particular.
Technically Brent Florence has done everything right, though. It's beautifully shot, well staged, well acted -- and it's got that "independent film" vibe. But in the final analysis it is just a girl, three guys and a gun. Actually two girls, five guys and two guns, but I guess they couldn't make that work as a title. And the moral of the movie -- repeated umpteen jillion times -- is "Know what you want, but always realize what you have."
The secondary moral, illustrated by the title of a book, is "Hope Is Real."
Yes, that's what I said.
I guess that would make it "quirky."
I hate quirky.
No dead bodies. No breasts. One sawed-off BB gun. Multiple nose-punches. One heist, with pantyhose masks, including the legs of the panty hose, so everyone looks like they have floppy space-alien antennas. Two chases (on foot). Dysfunctional Fu.
Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Kenny Luper, as the dimwitted but lovable Joey, for saying "We suck at this"; Tracy Zahoryin, for being an Elite model who can actually act; Josh Holland, as the abusive but cowardly Dave, for saying "You took me hostage with a BB gun?"; Christian Leffler, as the trigger-happy Neil; and Brent Florence, as the guy who falls in love with his own hostage.
One star. Joe Bob says check it out.