Guns, Girls and Gambling (2012)

(On Cable TV, November 2013) One of the small underrated pleasures of watching movies on specialized cable TV channels is the opportunity to discover small films that otherwise flew underneath everyone’s radar, especially when so much attention goes to theatrical releases.  So it is that we get to Guns, Girls and Gambling, a low-budget crime comedy that doesn’t try to innovate, but still manages to earn its share of twisty comic pleasures.  Featuring Christian Slater in a lead role good to remind everyone that he can actually be funny, this is one of those crime comedies heavily-narrated in non-linear fashion, and where seemingly-random bizarre occurrences in the first half are (almost) all explained by the twists of the film’s second half.  It works as long as you’re willing to cut writer/director Michael Winnick a lot of narrative slack (and even then, you can’t really explain characters such as “The Blonde” assassin in anything resembling our reality.)  It works if you want to play along, but it’s certainly rough around the edges: many of the recurring gags are a bit exasperating, and there’s a sense that another pass at the script would have cleaned up some of the less-funny material.  Many of the last plot twists can be guessed ahead of time as the only sane way to explain what’s going on (If you’re thinking Lucky Number Slevin after the first half-hour, well, you’re not far off), and the violence gets a bit excessive for what is otherwise a fairly amiable comedic romp.  Also disappointing is the film’s rather less-than-promised exploitation content: With a title like Guns, Girls and Gambling, I would have expected a lot more of all three, and definitely more Girls.  Still, those with a tolerance for the film’s own brand of excess are likely to get a few laughs out of the film: It’s genuinely attempting to be funny, and a number of the cameos are successful: Gary Oldman as an Elvis impersonator is, by itself, enough to warrant a look at the film’ trailer.  Winnick’s direction is both stylish and engaging, and some of the sugar-rush enthusiasm of the film’s early moments produces enough momentum to keep viewers past the repetitiousness of the second third and well into the revelations of the final act.  For a film that seemingly came out of nowhere and onto DVD shelves and movie channel line-ups, Guns, Girls and Gambling is a decent find.

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