Director Simon West (“The Expendables 2”) does the name of British comedy a disservice in his latest turn, Gun Shy, while simultaneously doing no favors for his own reputation as a formidable name in action. Billed as an action-comedy, Gun Shy gives us little of either, which is why its biggest problem can be summed up as a failure to commit. With a mess of a screenplay and a cast of reasonably talented but listless actors, the film’s only hope was to jump headlong into the world of spectacle, but fails to do even that by lacking conviction in its own absurdity.
Indeed, the comedy here is absurd — it is base, crude, heavy-handed and any other adjective you can think of that describes a scene in which a man is bitten on the penis by a snake. Forgive me: There are actually two separate scenes like that. By West’s standards, this joke was so good it bears repeating. Yet there is a place for such boorishness in the world of comedy, if only the film is willing to accept what it is at face value. In the same measure, Gun Shy also refuses to put both feet into the action pie, even though the poster seems to claim otherwise. Despite being the main character, Turk Henry (Antonio Banderas, “The Expendables 3”) sees as much action as riding through some bumpy streets on a suitcase. With neither a strong comedic footing nor a spectacular action sequence to speak of, the question here is simple: Who exactly is this movie targeted at?
The premise is simple enough — Turk Henry is an aging ex-rock star whose wife Sheila (Olga Kurylenko, “Momentum”) is kidnapped when they take a vacation to his homeland, Chile. Having become astonishingly lazy over the past few years, Turk has to figure out how to function well enough to retrieve his wife, while battling various obstacles that arise along the way. Armed with a wig, copious eyeliner and constant access to alcohol at an arm’s reach, Banderas does a decent Jack Sparrow impression here, staggering around aimlessly while the plot pushes him forward.
Admittedly, the role must have been fun to play, and Banderas’ performance is almost enjoyable purely because of this, but it’s not enough to distract from the character’s inane two-dimensionality. Kurylenko for her part is undeniably attractive and charming, but again, superficial beauty cannot hide the lack of substance in her personality. This is particularly important to note because it’s one of the film’s earliest stumbles — by the time Sheila is kidnapped, it’s very hard for the audience to care at all. We simply are not, in any way, invested in these characters.
The script (coincidentally almost as lazy as Turk himself) is riddled throughout with similarly caricaturesque roles, from Clive Muggleton (Martin Dingle Wall, “Strangerland”), the painfully sexist Aussie hired to recover Sheila, to Ben Harding (Mark Valley, “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” TV series), the bumbling U.S. government agent whose ineptitude is matched only by his ambition. The writing also crucially fails to provide any real sense of conflict or progress throughout Gun Shy, the push-and-pull dynamic of Turk and Harding’s struggle being easily lost under the mountain of illogical obstacles thrown in their way. A poor sense of timing when switching between scenes also thwarts the film’s attempt to develop Sheila’s relationship with her kidnapper, making it come across as irrelevant.
While I’m always hesitant to discredit the creative work of others, it’s hard to understand the reasoning behind making this film, particularly when it clearly had the opportunity to be truly entertaining. Gun Shy appears to be a compilation of the least likable parts of every B-grade action flick, bound together with a string of objectionable characters. A perfect opportunity to satirize movies of this very nature floats by, unnoticed, while the motley crew drown in the supposed humor of llama vomit.