Original title: Salty
D: Simon West / 91m
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Olga Kurylenko, Mark Valley, Martin Dingle Wall, Aisling Loftus, Fernando Godoy, David Mitchell, Jesse Johnson, Ben Cura, Jeremy Swift, Anna Francolini, Emiliano Jofre
Based on the novel Salty by co-screenwriter Mark Haskell Smith, the retitled Gun Shy is officially the world’s first equity crowd funded Hollywood movie… which in effect means, you may have a script and you may have talent attached to the project, but it still doesn’t mean the movie should get made. This is definitely the case with Gun Shy, a movie that juggles drama, comedy, romance and action with all the skill of a blind man whose fingers have been glued together. It’s also another movie that makes the viewer question why it was made at all, other than to give the cast and crew the chance of visiting Chile, where most of the action takes place. Perhaps the clue is in the phrase “world’s first equity crowd funded Hollywood movie”. After all, if you can’t even get “real” Hollywood to finance your movie project, then just how good is it?
In this particular case, not very good at all. It’s meant to be a wacky comedy, with Antonio Banderas’ washed-up musician, Turk Henry, sulking in his Malibu home following his having been let go from the band he helped form, Metal Assassin, and which has since gone on to mega-stardom. Turk won’t leave the house, behaves like a spoilt, whiny child, and is married to his long-suffering wife, ex-supermodel Sheila (Kurylenko), whom he met when they were both in rehab. Determined to get Turk out of the house, Sheila blackmails him into making a trip to his home country of Chile (though Turk always tells people he’s English and from London, even though he has a strong Spanish accent). Once there, and at the hotel, Turk just wants to stay by the pool drinking beer, while Sheila is more interested in getting out and experiencing Chilean culture. When Turk discovers that Sheila has been kidnapped along with a couple of British tourists, and is being held for ransom by a group of would-be pirates, his attempt to secure her release by paying a million dollars is hampered by US embassy official Ben Harding (Valley).
Harding wants to use the kidnappings to win promotion by apprehending the so-called “terrorists” (his phrase). He forbids Turk from paying the ransom, and confiscates the money when Turk tries to go ahead with paying the kidnappers. Meanwhile, Sheila is using the time with her abductors, led by Juan Carlos (Cura), to examine more closely the relationship she has with Turk, and how satisfactory it is; naturally she’s not impressed with its current state. Turk though, hasn’t given up trying to get her back. He enlists the aid of one of his agent’s employees, Marybeth (Loftus), and through her, a specialist security agent called Clive Muggleton (Wall). With Harding still trying to win the day by himself and doing all he can to foil their efforts, Turk, Marybeth and Clive concoct a plan to pay the ransom. But will it work?
The more appropriate question might be, will anyone care? Turk and Sheila do deserve each other, but not in a grand romantic fashion, but rather in a no-one-else-would-put-up-with-their-selfish-attitudes kind of way. Turk wants Sheila back because he can’t live without her, but that’s because she organises his life and he can’t function without her. And yet, when she’s kidnapped he does exactly that, and does pretty well for himself in the bargain. He still behaves in a silly, empty-headed manner, but that’s due largely to the way that the script portrays him, and is less to do with Banderas’ performance, which is grating for the most part and dispiriting for the rest. Faced with a main character who is less than sympathetic, and with a situation where you could be forgiven for thinking that being kidnapped is an opportunity to live a better life (with the kidnappers, who at least know what they want: ships), the couple’s marriage would be better served dramatically if this was the beginning of the end. Unfortunately, this isn’t the approach the movie wants to take, so it makes Sheila’s navel-gazing over ther marriage purely something for Kurylenko to do while she waits for her character to be rescued.
With Turk and Sheila’s relationship lacking credibility, the movie struggles elsewhere as well, with the aims and goals of the kidnappers – literally, to have ships so that they can call themselves pirates – being portrayed in such a ridiculous way that the idea remains laughable whenever it’s brought up. They’re basically nice guys playing at being bad, and they aren’t very successful at it. This leaves Harding as the movie’s big bad, and he’s played by Valley in such a way that you can’t take him seriously no matter how hard Valley tries. There’s also a sub-plot involving Turk’s agent, John Hardigger (Mitchell), which doesn’t come into its own until the last ten minutes, and which feels like an after thought to the main narrative (although it does make better use of Mitchell during that time than it does Banderas for the whole movie).
Crowd-funded or not, Gun Shy is a movie that mistakes silliness for humour, and doesn’t attempt to take itself seriously. It wastes the time and efforts of its cast, plays fast and loose with its kidnapping plot, labours the point in respect to Harding’s ambitious personality, and seems to have been directed on auto pilot by West, who can’t even make the occasional action sequence anything more than laboured (a chase/taser attack by Harding on Muggleton is poorly staged and less than thrilling). The early scenes drag on unnecessarily, and the middle section is hampered by the need to stretch things out in terms of the drama (what there is of it). Amazingly though, the final half hour does see the movie pick up, and the pacing and material appear energised in comparison to the rest of the movie. Some of it is even funny at this stage, which makes you wonder why the movie as a whole wasn’t treated in the same way. With this and Security (2017), Banderas isn’t having the best of years, and the rest of the cast do what they can, but Smith’s script (co-written with Toby Davies) isn’t as well structured or funny as was perhaps originally intended. Even the Chilean locations don’t look their best, and if you can’t get that right, then something is very seriously wrong indeed.
Rating: 4/10 – though it should have been a slick comedy adventure movie, Gun Shy is undermined by lacklustre pacing, no one to root for, laughs that land with a thud, and leaden direction from West; only Wall and Loftus emerge with any credit from the cast, and only by dint of the effort they put in, but otherwise this is yet another movie that plays out in an exotic foreign location to very little effect except for providing everyone with a working holiday.