When James Coburn’s daughter (Virgina Madsen) is senselessly killed, he becomes obsessedwith tracing the ownership of the gun that killed her. He criss-crosses the country, wrestling withhis own demons (such as his terrible memories of the World War II) at the same time as wewitness the bloody history of the gun.
Mourning is an almost completely undramatic condition, a fact that hobbled (to a degree)In the Bedroom and The Son’s Room. American Gun’s solution is to adda quest narrative to the story of grief, and this does provide a needed dramatic arc, though thetone barely fluctuates from low-key misery. The resolution is problematic. It drives home thetragedy of guns, but does so perhaps a bit too obviously – anyone watching this film will alreadybe on-side. Even more troublesome is the pat conclusion that is created, one very much at oddswith the rest of the film. Interesting work then, and a fine final turn from Coburn, but a mixedsuccess, at best.
The 2.0 track is a very effective example of its kind. This is, for the most part, a very quietfilm, so there often isn’t any sound to be distributed to the front and rear. When there are soundeffects available (such as during Coburn’s war flashbacks), the surround is excellent, withproperly deafening explosions. The music is well handled too, with some nicely sensitiveplacement (the music fading to the rear, for instance, just as dialogue emerges from the frontspeakers). There is one moment where a character sighs, and the sound of the sigh turns into asurround effect, which is jarring.
The picture is has good flesh tones and moody, dark colours that are never muddy. Theblacks are fine. The image is, generally, quite sharp, though some of the long shots are softer thanI would like. The edge enhancement is generally minimal, barring the odd instance where itbecomes noticeable.
The menu is basic. Other than trailers for Dirty Pretty Things, The MagdaleneSisters and Only the Strong Survive, there’s an A&E Biography episode onCoburn.
A very worthy effort, even if it is a bit too didactic for its own good.
Special Features List
- “James Coburn: Bang the Gong” A&E Biography