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Shotgun
(1989)

Director: Addison Randall 
Cast:
Stuart Chapin, Riff Hutton, David Marriott


I can hardly believe it at times. It used to be something that I would daydream years and years ago, but never quite believed that it would be something that I would personally experience. What I find hard to comprehend on occasion is that I am living in the future. I know what some of you are saying to that - you are saying something like, "Right now is the present, not the future." That's certainly a legitimate way to think about it. But to me, I remember how things were in the past and wishing technology was more advanced than how it was then. And now, that technology has come into my grasp. The technology I am thinking of has to do with movies, how we now get them and how we now see them. I am writing this on a computer that is equipped with high speed Internet, and with both of those things working simultaneously I am now able to search for movies that I have wanted to see for years but for various reasons wasn't able to do so previously, movies ranging from The Mouse And His Child to Unman, Wittering, And Zigo. What I would have given in my youth to have the technology then that I have now! I will admit that the legality of my uses of the Internet to download such movies may be in question, but if you won't tell, I won't tell on you. Yes, it is great to be living in the future. But that does not mean that I am letting go of everything movie-related that I used in the past to view movies. There's still a lot of merit in many "old school" ways of viewing movies. For example, I still renew my cable TV subscription every month. The television stations that I get still broadcast a number of movies every month that I find interesting from their descriptions and that I subsequently watch. Often these movies aren't available for download, so you can see why I still value television.

The next step of evolution from waiting for certain movies to come on television stations - the invention of the VHS tape - is also something that I have not abandoned. While they may not put out new movies on VHS anymore, there are millions of used VHS movie tapes out there that can be had for insanely low prices. I regularly go to my local pawn shops and thrift stores to see what's new, and I have found movies there I have been seeking for years, movies that you can't find online or on DVD. And with the mention of DVD in that last sentence, I would like to point out that I have certainly not abandoned that format. Certainly, the majority of legitimately released movies on DVD beat the quality of a lot of downloads (and VHS releases) out there. And there is the pleasure of having a physical copy of a movie that a download simply does not have. But another reason why I still enjoy DVD releases so much is that you can get some real bargains. There are two DVD studios whose product I often enjoy, packing multiple movies in one box. Mill Creek Entertainment is one such company. They have released several times box sets of multiple spaghetti westerns at real low prices; one box set, containing twenty spaghetti westerns, cost me only five dollars. Another company that I enjoy is Echo Bridge Home Entertainment. They have also released multiple movie packs at equally low prices, a number of which I have bought because they have movies from PM Entertainment in these packs, and by now you should know my love for movies from PM Entertainment. Some of the past PM Entertainment movies I have found in Echo Bridge DVD packs include T-Force and Forced To Kill.

Recently, rummaging through the DVD bargain bin at my local discount store, I came across an Echo Bridge DVD pack containing a PM Entertainment movie that I saw long ago and wanted desperately to see again. As you may have guessed, it's the movie being reviewed here, Shotgun. But it was not because it's a good movie. I saw it on late night television more than Shotgunten years ago and being stunned by what I saw. Flabbergasted. It was gawdawful. No, more than simply gawdawful - it was surreal in its ineptness. I don't remember the reasons why I didn't review it way back then, but the memory of it stuck with me for all those years. So coming across it again, I knew I had to do the right thing and review it once and for all to warn my audience - though there are possibly a few masochists out there who might warm up to the movie's gawdawfulness. First of all, the plot: The beginning of the movie introduces us to two fellows in Los Angeles, Ian Jones (Chapin) and Max Billings (Hutton), who are partners in the city's police force. While Max plays it pretty safe for the most part, Jones is more of a loose cannon and not thought well by Internal Affairs, resulting in his job security hanging by a thread. But that's not the only problem he's having - his sister Tanya (Katie Caple) is a prostitute. Meanwhile, in some other part of the city, a creep by the name of Rocker (Marriott) is finding for his rich lawyer boss Rivington various prostitutes, which his boss subsequently beats up. Yes, you can see where this is going - one night Tanya is picked up, and is abused so badly that she dies of her injuries. Naturally, Jones is out for blood, and Rocker is arrested, but the sleazebag Rivington manages to get Rocker released. Jones goes berserk and soon after his questionable actions manage to get himself suspended from the force. But Jones doesn't stay down - he soon becomes a bounty hunter, and armed with a shotgun, he starts cleaning up the streets while working on his plan to bring down Rocker and Rivington one way or another.

After reading the plot description in the above paragraph, you are probably thinking something along the lines of, "Well, this plot doesn't sound particularly awful - it sounds equal to many plots found in made-for-video action movies from the 1980s." Ah, indeed it does, but it's the movie's untypical execution of this standard-sounding plot that pushes it beyond mere badness, and into a world of the surreal that is seldom seen in even the worst motion pictures you have ever seen. For starters, just take a look at the acting in this movie - that is, if you can call the performances in this movie acting. Shotgun boast some of the worst performances I have ever seen in a movie. The crown for the movie's worst performance easily goes to Stuart Chapin as the central figure. I lost count of the times when he didn't look into the eyes of (or even in the direction of) the other actors in the movie, like he was so ashamed that he didn't want to see any reactions to his severely bad performance. There is often no emotion in his voice, and when his character does start talking tough, it sounds really forced and unnatural, as if he was dealing with a bad case of constipation at the same time. The one scene where his character loosens up (a drunk sequence) come across as equally contrived, enough that you would swear Chapin never was actually drunk in his life or even seen a drunk performance in a movie before acting in this one. Chapin is in good company, however, since nobody in the movie gives a good or even a half-decent performance. Nobody. The performances by all of the cast are not just bad, you sense a feeling of great hostility coming from all of the actors even during the movie's quieter or more tender moments. Not once did I sense the actors were having any fun in their roles, or even that they were making some sort of effort to be professional in their work. Instead, I sensed great resentment from everybody, like they hated being stuck in this movie and were performing against their will.

I strongly suspect that the hostility and the bad performances coming from the actors was due to their realizing they were in a cinematic ship sinking extremely fast, so they thought that a more professional attitude would be futile. One of the icebergs that they felt hit this ship was without doubt the screenplay. To begin with, there is the screenplay's dialogue. The fact that much of the dialogue is just like what you've heard in dozens of cop movies before is bad enough, but sprinkled throughout there are some real groaners, like when Jones tells a superior officer, "My partner and I were in a high stress situation that would probably give you Hershey squirts!" Later, when Jones shotguns someone in the butt ("You shot my a**hole!"), he tells the yakking wounded victim, "If I wanted a conversation, I would have shot Dick Cavett!" As I said, there's plenty of groan-inducing dialogue like this throughout Shotgun, but that's not the only problem with its screenplay. The story is a mess as well, with stuff that doesn't make sense or is downright stupid. Take the part of the movie when the character of Rocker is arrested. He assaults Max during the arrest and tries to run away, though Jones catches him. At the police lineup, three women identify him as the one who was with Jones' now-deceased sister. So there's clearly plenty of evidence for accessory to murder, as well as the assault on a police officer, to keep him behind bars until at least the bail hearing. But lawyer Rivington comes down to the station and demands Rocker be immediately released. For what reason or reasons? He does not say. And Rocker is subsequently and immediately released by the cops for these unknown reasons. It gets worse - later in the movie, Jones is told that Rocker has skipped bail, despite the fact that we had seen him earlier in the movie freed by his lawyer without having to post bail.

The sorry screenplay for Shotgun was written by one Addison Randall, who a year later wrote and directed the barely better actioner Chance, also for PM Entertainment. (He also wrote and directed the shabby East L.A. Warriors for the same studio.) It probably comes as no surprise that Randall wasn't just the writer for Shotgun, but was also the director. The kindest thing I can say about his direction here is that it is equal to his other directorial efforts. Like other PM Entertainment movies of this era, the movie looks extremely shabby. As with Chance, the movie looks suspiciously like it was shot on videotape and transferred to film, and even on DVD the movie boasts washed-out colors and poor lighting. Things like production values are almost totally absent here, shooting mostly on location (though still looking cheap and seedy) and most of the budget apparently going to constructing the armed armored vehicle that appears in the climatic action sequence. (Though apparently Randall didn't have any money to buy blanks for the vehicle's machine gun, since we don't see the open barrel of the gun when it's fired.) When the direction isn't cheap, it's often silly. There's one bizarre scene when Max s-l-o-w-l-y eats a banana while walking in a XXX video store, and deposits the banana peel on the clerk's countertop when finished. Other strange touches include the dishevelled Jones wearing a fancy fedora while on the job, or when a knee to the groin is executed while a shriek of an out of tune guitar plays on the soundtrack. Isolated moments like those do bring some laughs, but overall there really isn't that much unintended humor to be found here. I don't know how to describe just how bad Shotgun is. It's so atrociously acted, so ineptly scripted, so cheaply budgeted, and so amateurishly directed that words can't properly describe the viewing experience. Unless you are some sort of cinematic masochist, stay far away. It's not entertainment - it's an experience.

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See also: Chance, Dance Or Die, Ice

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