he world loves a good western. As a matter of
fact, Europeans loved them so much that, when distribution problems of the
early 1960s made these movies increasingly difficult to import, they
started making their own. While starring actors of various nations, most
of these films were financed by Italian companies and filmed in Italy,
Spain, Yugoslavia, the Canary Islands, and even Argentina. The final
products were dubbed 'Spaghetti Westerns' by critics. The term, if you
were wondering, was originally intended as an insult. Despite the critical
jab, the films grew in popularity and, more importantly for the producers,
profitability, paving the way for even more.
Between 1964 and 1975, it has
been estimated that European film companies accounted for 600 westerns,
including Sergio Leone's high watermark, the legendary 'Man With No Name'
trilogy, consisting of "A
Fistful of Dollars," "For
A Few Dollars More," and "The
Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." These films were commonly
characterized by excessive violence, a unique musical score, a largely
amoral society, and the emergence of the gritty, unshaven, unkempt
gunslinger that was also the first true silver screen 'anti-hero' of the
20th century. Over time and subsequent viewings, the moniker 'Spaghetti
Western' changed from insult to admiration, and directors of today
continue to pay their respects to this unique sub-genre.
Director Atsushi Muroga's low budget,
straight-to-video "Gun Crazy" (Volume 1: "A Woman From
Nowhere") is intended as homage to the Spaghetti Westerns, but
instead of giving an affectionate nod to its influences,
"Nowhere" goes nowhere fast. The film is weighted down by a
lukewarm plot that is all too derivative from other cult feasts, uneven
moments of tension that appears to also have been lifted from other, more
notable films, and uninteresting stock characters already stale with
overuse by the time Muroga thought to repeat the process with his own
On a motorcycle with no name, leather-clad Saki
(played by supermodel and television star Ryoko Yonekura) rides into
Tsuson, a dreary but contemporary little hollow on the edge of an American
military base. The town has been corrupted by Mr. Tojo (Shingo Tsurumi), a
generic crimelord who suffers from delusions of grandeur as well as a
ludicrous high price on his head for reasons never explained, explored, or
expunged. A bounty hunter by trade, Saki takes on the local mob, as well
as American soldiers that take their marching orders from Tojo in yet
another plot-hole twist.
Throughout the film, Saki engages the enemy in a
variety of shootouts and slugfests that bears more than a passing
resemblance to the cinematic works of Dante Lam, Johnnie To, and John Woo.
Of course, by the film's climax and out of respect for the 'Spaghetti'
genre that it purports to be honoring, Saki has endured more than a
heroine's fair share of torture at the hands of these culprits, leaving
her just enough time to inevitably and predictably rise to the occasion --
on her knees, no less, in what is a laughable twist for a surprise ending
-- and vanquishes her enemies with a handy rocket launcher.
"Gun Crazy" isn't so much inspired by the
Spaghetti Westerns as it is plagiarizing whole sections from Sam Raimi's
Quick and the Dead". In an ironic twist, Raimi's movie is itself
an admitted homage to Sergio Leone's films, one of which was "A
Fistful of Dollars", which in turn was inspired by Japanese filmmaker
Akira Kurosawa's "Yojimbo".
So what we have here is a Japanese director plagiarizing from an American
filmmaker who was doing homage to an Italian director who was following in
the footsteps of a Japanese director. The irony is delicious.
Outside of some great photography of star Ryoko
Yonekura, who does look great in leather, "Gun Crazy" offers
little more than 70-plus minutes of mindless escape from reality. And like
most of the 'Spaghetti Westerns' of their day, "Gun Crazy" can
be viewed as voyeuristic mind candy -- guilt-free entertainment that plays
with genre conventions as opposed to expanding upon them or enlightening
the audience with any lasting impact. Here, vengeance isn't so much a dish
best served cold as it is served with hot smoking lead fired at 200 rounds
The story involves little to no emotional investment
on the viewer's part, and the action is tightly photographed but too
reminiscent of scenes from other films. The acting is entirely one note.
As such, the hero is a hero for the sake of being a hero, the town schmuck
is the town schmuck, and the villain is the villain. There is little
back-story required here other than Saki's flashbacks. Also, a greater
exploration of Mr. Tojo might have made his eventual grizzly comeuppance
more satisfying. Even Clint Eastwood's "Dirty
Harry," an important step in the continued evolution of the
cinematic anti-hero, made certain the bad guys had it coming before he
pulled his Magnum.
Perhaps even more disturbing than the fact that
"Gun Crazy" somehow managed to avoid plagiarism lawsuits is the
fact that it's only the first in a series titled "Girls With
Guns." But even that title would only work if Saki bothered to use
her guns more often.