A Gun to the Head wants to be a larkish romp through the fun-filled ranks of thugs, murderers, molls, strippers, drug dealers, drug users and assorted other creatures of the nocturne. Along the way, amid the occasional pause for a strangulation or a bloody punch-up or bullets fired with deadly intent, copious banter is exchanged and comedy is the order of the night. Sound familiar? Yes, the by-now musty idea is early Tarantino. The execution, alas, is strictly movie-of-the-week.
Writer/director Blaine Thurier splits the narrative into competing halves, then tries to weld them together over the course of a single evening on the streets of Vancouver. In the domestic half of the equation, Trevor (Tygh Runyan) and Grace are hosting a dinner party for her pompous boss and his airhead wife, a dull prospect that sees Trevor pining to make an escape. Ostensibly to buy more wine for the table, he bolts out and quickly hooks up with his wayward cousin Darren (Paul Anthony). Back in the day, the two used to be partners in coke-snorting, hard-partying and various excursions on the dubious side of the law. Marriage ended all that for Trevor but, of course, marriage comes with a steep mortgage and he’s losing interest.
The demimonde beckons, so they head into the thick of it – first a short colloquy with a raunchy pole-dancer, on to a lively bout of fisticuffs outside a bar, topped by a few “bumps” at the neighbourhood cocaine den. Then it’s off to pay Darren’s debt at the house of Sam. Actually, only a fraction of the debt, and since Sam (Hrothgar Mathews) is the sort of cold-blooded gangster who doesn’t count in fractions, Darren is decidedly in deep doo-doo – gun and head are poised to meet. That’s when Trevor ill-advisedly steps in to help. And that’s about when the gangster, a loquacious killer, is heard to chirp: “You have to make a little small talk while doing business.” Yep, enter the banter.
But not the yuks. Oh, they make a few sporadic appearances. Sam’s moll, seductively clumsy yet acutely psychopathic, is worth a brief chuckle. So is Darren’s unrelenting brand of dumbness – as criminal IQs go, his is barely room temperature. Mainly, though, the laughs are forced and strained, especially back on the domestic front where poor Grace, while worrying about hubby’s prolonged absence, is having to fend off the group-sex invitations of her horny boss. By now, this is getting to seem like the Olympics of low-lifes, with Vancouver once again as the generous host city. It makes a Canadian proud.
Inevitably, the two plot strands intersect at the climax, whereupon the cupcake of stale comedy receives a few more sprinkles of colourful violence. There, multiple guns get pointed at several heads. If one were held to mine, demanding that I sit through this flick again or face mortal consequences, I would comply. Probably. Maybe. Hell, pull the damn trigger.
A Gun to the Head
- Directed and written by Blaine Thurier
- Starring Tygh Runyan and Paul Anthony
- Classification: n/a