Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 10, 2011)
Though plenty of rap artists moved smoothly to the big screen, the path taken by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson seems more problematic. He debuted essentially as himself in 2005’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’; clearly modeled after the successful 8 Mile, Tryin’ flopped and Jackson’s movie career hasn’t gone much of anywhere since then.
But he keeps tryin’, and 2010’s Gun becomes his latest attempt to turn himself into a movie icon. A gang led by Rich Taylor (Jackson) incites a panic at a nightclub and shoots the fleeing patrons. They do so to eliminate competitors for their gun-running business, but they take down innocent victims as well, a fact that adds pressure to the police to do more about rising violent crime.
This leads to intervention from Detectives Rogers (James Remar) and Jenkins (Paul Calderon). We follow the actions of Taylor’s gang, an area that also involves the integration of old pal Angel (Val Kilmer) after his release from prison.
Back when I reviewed Tryin’, I noted my extreme dislike of Jackson. My view has softened over the last five years, mostly because 50 Cent has become much less of a public presence. His career hasn’t tanked since then, but he’s clearly faded as a major star. It’s more difficult to generate active animosity toward someone who’s not seen much anymore.
A look back over Jackson’s career since Tryin’ shows that unlike most rappers-turned-actors, he’s not done much to diversify his cinematic portfolio. Oh, he’s gone for a couple of atypical roles; he played a soldier in Home of the Brave and a detective (!) in Streets of Blood.
However, Jackson usually stays close to thug roles, so he remains in familiar territory here. As an actor, I will admit he’s shown some growth since 2005. He seemed stiff and wooden in Tryin’, whereas in Gun… well, he’s still pretty flat, but he shows a bit more life and personality.
Not that the role allows for much range. Jackson wrote the film’s script himself, and the screenplay clearly displays its roots as the product of an inexperienced writer – an inexperienced writer who apparently has never seen anything other than cop/gangster flicks, as well. The plot, characters and situations of Gun never amount to anything more than a compendium of Stuff We’ve Seen Before. The film doesn’t leave a cliché unturned, as it churns out one predictable moment after another.
To add insult to injury, Jackson’s lack of skill as a writer makes these clichés even more offensive due to their stiffness. Jackson packs the script with clunky exposition and trite dialogue. Even if we tolerate the tired nature of the story and characters, the bland, choppy manner in which the movie progresses kills it.
All of this adds up to a slooooow screening. Gun clocks in at less than 82 minutes, but it feels like a much, much longer film. At times it seems like nothing happens; even when various plot events happen, the movie comes across like it’s permanently stuck in neutral.
Not that anyone involved does much to elevate the material. Actually, Remar seems game and attempts to bring a little life to his caricatured role as the grizzled veteran cop, but all the other actors appear to regard this as the paycheck film it is.
Which leads to this thought: what the heck happened to Val Kilmer? Granted, he’s been porky for a while, but I can’t recall another film in which he looks quite this bloated. I also can’t think of another “matinee idol” sort who aged this poorly; Kilmer’s almost the same age as George Clooney – his follow-up as Batman in the 90s – but only one of those actors can play hot leading men, and it ain’t Kilmer. If he ever wanted to be called “Brandoesque”, he got his wish, but just because he’s mirrored Marlon’s middle-aged descent into fatness.
Kilmer’s increasing girth aside, Gun offers a thoroughly forgettable film. It couldn’t be more banal and tedious if it tried, and all its attempts to deliver heat and drama fall utterly flat. It’s both overcooked and underbaked at the same time, which is pretty tough to do – and not a good thing.