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Men Cry Bullets
(1997)

Director: Tamara Hernandez          
Cast:
Steve Nelson, Honey Lauren, Jeri Ryan


The things I have to do in order to add to my movie collection. Long-time devotees of this site will probably remember the time I reviewed Sonny Boy. While I gave it an enthusiastic review, I did note at the time that it appeared to be cut from a longer version. Subsequently I found out from the director himself that the version I saw was cut, and from another reader I got a list of added scenes that were present in the United Kingdom version. Naturally, I wanted to see this version for myself. It wasn't long until I was contacted by a reader who had a copy of this edit for myself, and offered to send it to me. There was one catch, though; I would have to agree to review another movie he would send to me, a movie that was made by a filmmaker friend of his. And it would be one of those "homemade" movies. You know the kind, that are made by those people who are the independent of independent filmmakers, those who make movies from Completely Totally Utterly to 23 Hours. Well. That seemed a reasonable request to me. And after all, I had previously written a positive review of one such movie (Lethal Force), and while I didn't approve of those other two movies overall, there was a lot to admire about them all the same. This particular one had a cool title - Men Cry Bullets. My salivation only increased when I was told that this movie just happened to be in the same vein as that of the demented genius of Sonny Boy. So why not? Okay, I said. Send it along.

I think you know where this is going. Men Cry Bullets turned out to be a terrible movie. A terrible, terrible movie. It sucks, it sucks it sucks. IT SUCKS. I am repeating myself not only to emphasize just how utterly awful it is, but also because I realize I am now stuck with the arduous task of having to write a full-length review of this... thing that supposed to be a movie. That thing being called, if you happened to miss my explanation a few sentences ago, Men With Bullets. Which is a movie that sucks. Well, all that did bring me a little closer to getting to a minimum word-count, though I do realize that I can't really keep repeating myself. So what am I going to do? Hmmm. That's a tough question. Isn't it? I think you agree. Don't you? Well, I realize it makes no difference what you think, since either way I still have a job to do. A promise is a promise, though, so I am determined that I'm going to write a review of this movie one way or another. I'm gonna find ya, I'm gonna get cha get cha get cha get cha  - oh, sorry. Just demonstrating how just about anything you write can suddenly spark something in your memory.

Men Cry Bullets takes place in a city. Probably Los Angeles, but I don't think it's made clear. The vague locale fits in perfectly with the opening, She tried getting out of the movie, but resistance was futilewhich is so jumbled that it's hard to tell what's going on at first. Eventually, we find out we're at one of those popular kinky clubs, this one owned by a Mr. Freddy Fishnets. You know, the kind that attract perverted customers that like to see a woman contortionist arch her body while her hands and feet are on the floor. Or a fat man in a diaper holding a baby bottle while reading Emily Dickinson. Or - get this - a guy dressing like a woman. That guy is Billy (Nelson), who the movie first introduces to us by letting us hear him on the soundtrack throwing up. Soon afterwards, we get to see him for ourselves - still throwing up, and almost directly into the camera lens. Pretty realistic barfing, if you ask me; they even provided a long string of drool and yecch hanging down from his lips after the fact, as it often is in real life. Billy is nervous, by the way. But he gets the nerve to put on his dress, wig, and makeup after thinking about what seem to be at this point random scenes filmed in black and white. Billy is introduced on stage, and begins his dancing and lip-synching. He's about as successful at that as he is appearing as a woman - which is absolutely unsuccessful. But the crowd cheers at the sight of this downward-glancing slowly-shuffling thing in a dress. All I can conclude from the crowd reaction to this painful display is that this must be S&M night at the club. I told you this was a kinky place.

One person in the audience isn't so pleased by the cross-dressing Billy, however. That person is Gloria (Lauren, Vice Academy series), who is outraged when she sees her boyfriend dancing with Billy (and dancing much better than Billy, I must add.) She runs up to the stage and gives Billy the ultimate humiliation - she pulls his wig off. It's a crushing blow, symbolized by a shot of Billy's hands squeezing the doffed wig. Then a subsequent shot of him standing naked on stage, covering his genitals with the wig. Mr. Fishnets tries to get Gloria to apologize, but she won't. So Billy decides to try to get an apology on his own. Getting directions from Diaper Man ("She lives in a scary house"), he arrives on her doorstep, handing her a flower so she can give it back to him as a token of apology. She is touched by this, so much so that she invites him in so he can cook breakfast for her. Then in a further gesture of amends, she then takes him into the shed behind the house and rapes him, as we hear the grunts of her pet pig Billy saw her hug and kiss just before he knocked on her door. Though very upset during and after the experience, Billy quickly comes to the conclusion he's in love, and later that day the two begin a torrid and abusive relationship. It's inevitable that this relationship will turn sour, and that happens the next day, when Gloria asks Billy to help her kill her visiting cousin Lydia (Ryan, Star Trek: Voyager). See, Gloria's p***ed that Lydia not only played videogames earlier that day with that aforementioned (and now ex) boyfriend of hers, but that Lydia didn't know her pig was a pet, butchering and cooking it up just a few hours earlier. Will Billy risk it all for true love?

A more likely question any sane viewer would ask himself at this point would be, "Why I am still watching this pointless garbage?" That's not to say it is completely devoid of anything of worth; most bad movies do have at least one thing good to say about them, and Men With Bullets is no exception. For example, take the musical score. Or rather, the songs used on the soundtrack, performed mainly by a Margaret Owens and a Forest Artoro Dunn. They are more than good. In fact, they are excellent, fresh and original, going all the way from light and hummable to absolutely haunting. Despite the rest of the movie being so agonizing to watch, the songs were so great that there was still a part of me patiently waiting to hear another one, and it's a shame that CD copies of this soundtrack have never been made available.

Then there is the dialogue, which has a few lines that manage to shake you from your stupor with their outrageousness or sheer silliness, such as:
 

GLORIA: You know, I never usually apologize to people unless I think the judge will give me a lighter sentence
---
GLORIA: Why did I have to turn 33?
BILLY: Don't worry, I'll help you.
GLORIA: Why would you want to help me? I just raped you.
---
GLORIA: [To pig] Come back! I'm your mother!
---
GLORIA'S MOTHER
: Gloria, I want you back here tonight by 6 o'clock. I don't want any of these all-night things going on while your cousin is here. Don't want her thinking you're a slut
GLORIA: But I am a slut, mother.
---
BILLY: Your cousin is not so bad. She's just full of s**t.
 

I guess I also can't get away with filling the rest of this review with samples of dialogue, so I'll have to get back to talking about other attributes of the movie. So is there anything else in the movie worthy of note? Let me check my notes... Well, it does offer some visuals that are still unique after over a hundred years of filmmaking. I don't know of any other movie that shows a fully frontal nude man doing jumping jacks at an incredibly fast speed. Or a man lifting two watermelons attached to chains that are fastened at the other ends to his nipples. And while worm-eating may not be unique to this movie, I can't think of any previous examples where the worms were served on a silver platter.

Okay, I've finished listing everything that viewers might possibly find of merit in Men Cry Bullets. Now I can unhesitatingly rip the rest of it into miniscule pieces after it not only gave me so much pain, but doing so for an incredibly long time. Not just because of its punishing 105 minute running time, but that it took me several days to finally get to its 105th minute.

Why do I hate this movie so much?

One reason is that there is not one likable character in the movie. You don't necessarily need to make a character or characters in a movie likable to make them compelling; take the Daniel Ray Hawkins character in Confessions Of A Serial Killer, whose monstrosity scared and fascinated its audience. But the characters in Men Cry Bullets can't convince us to embrace them, because they can't even seem to convince themselves they are free-thinking individuals. Everything about these characters comes off as contrived, as a strenuous effort to make them cult movie figures, and they become grotesque as a result. Billy is such a spineless wimp, so blubbery that you get angry at him instead of laughing or being touched by his personal and professional struggles. Gloria is so filled with venom against everything and everyone around her, that her hate is not amusing or self-revealing, just instead a single note she rings again and again. (It also makes her attraction to Billy totally unconvincing.) Lydia's frequent poor judgment seems much out of place for someone who otherwise comes across as sane and of normal intelligence. None of these characters has any past, at least of real substance that makes them more than exhibits of the worst attributes found in humanity.

I also hate the acting in the movie. It's not that these actors can't act, it comes across more that they failed to receive any outside input and are doing the best they can by themselves. While a good director will take into consideration as to how the actors themselves suggest how to play out a scene, he or she will not only tell the actors in the end how to play it, but make sure the performances will be more or less constant from one scene to another. But the actors in Men Cry Bullets often seem lost, almost like they are struggling to improvise right on the spot. The movie did have a breakneck schedule (a sixteen day shoot, with seven pages shot a day), and this frenzied pace may have meant little time to work on the acting. Ryan comes off best of all the actors, though only because she seems somewhat less bewildered by it all.

And I hate the way the movie is directed. I could go for paragraphs detailing incompetence like the technical attributes (examples being soft, blurry photography and backgrounds being overexposed), a constant inability to place the camera in the right position (such as characters being in a boat for one long scene, but you almost never see any part of the boat itself), or obvious mistakes made by the actors that the director somehow never saw (like seeing one character's elbow sticking out from behind a corner seconds before the character enters the room.) But what I hate most of all is the delivery and pace of the movie. This is an agonizingly slow movie; it takes the better part of an hour before Gloria asks Billy to kill her cousin. Every scene before that point (and after that point, for that matter) not only hits down with a thud, it's extended to the point where the echoes of the thud have long since dissipated. There's a cruel moment about 75 minutes into the movie, where hope starts to build in us, because there's the suggestion that everyone is about to die and give us the happiest ending possible for this movie. It's cruel because not only do the characters survive that incident, the movie then proceeds to torture us for another half hour, showing us even more of these characters' pointless, strident, hopeless, and loser lives.

I made it. Okay folks, move along now, nothing more to see here.

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See also: Dr. Caligari, Shock Treatment, Sonny Boy

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