How does this strike you as the premise of an over-the-top Hollywood action-comedy: the ex-supermodel wife of a pampered, debauched, has-been rock star is kidnapped by pirates while the couple is on holiday in South America, and he’s forced to toughen up, sober up, and, perhaps, kick a little ass in order to get her back – sounds promising, right? In the hands of, say, an Edgar Wright – or, at least, some filmmaker who’s paid enough attention that they could successfully rip off Wright’s trademark zippy action setpieces and whip-smart comedic chops – that could be a hell of a lot of fun.
Gun Shy, starring Antonio Bandera and directed by Con Air helmer Simon West, is decidedly not a hell of a lot of fun. And to say that it squanders that admittedly killer setup is an understatement somewhere on the level of suggesting that Motley Crue might have gotten intimate with a groupie or two during their heyday. The film, on rare occasions, rises to the level of “mildly amusing,” but it’s hard not to wonder what could have been – though, maybe, doing so would be giving Gun Shy entirely more thought than it actually warrants.
“Gun Shy is decidedly not a hell of a lot of fun.”
At any rate, Banderas plays a washed-up cock-rock superstar named Turk Enry. He’s got a mansion in Malibu, a good-hearted but long-suffering former runway queen (Olga Kurylenko) for a spouse, the same flamboyantly terrible fashion sense as Steven Tyler, and little to do with his time besides sitting around drinking and watching “Where Are They Now” TV specials about him and his former band, Metal Assassin. Turk’s wife convinces (really, forces) him into traveling with her to Chile to get in touch with his cultural heritage, and, soon after – in a scene that rather brainlessly riffs on spitting llamas and “ugly American” stereotypes – she’s taken hostage by a handsome rogue (Ben Cura) and his newly-formed band of seafaring revolutionaries.
What follows hardly speaks to the explosion-heavy oeuvre of director West, the guy responsible for such shoot-’em-ups as The Expendables 2 and 2011’s Jason Statham-starring remake of The Mechanic. No, Gun Shy instead veers in the direction of really broad, cartoonish silliness, and any hope that Banderas’s character is at some point going to go full-on Desperado is extinguished pretty quickly. For some reason, the ostensibly villainous wife-napping pirates are actually the most likable, sympathetic characters in the movie (and, in one of its relatively inspired touches, they’re actually huge fans of Turk’s band and its hit single, “Teenage Ass Patrol”), and the real threat comes from a deranged American government agent (Mark Valley) who’s hell-bent on not letting Turk pay the kidnappers’ ransom.
So, what that mostly leaves are the jokes, the majority of which could use some serious punching-up from a screenwriter who’s a lot less inclined toward delivering the most obvious gags in any given situation; if, in a movie, you’ve ever seen the wrong person get zapped with a taser, a poisonous snake biting someone’s naughty bits, or a rich, out-of-touch character humorously failing to relate to the working class, well, you’ve probably seen it executed better than it is here. That’s not to say there are no chuckles at all to be had in Gun Shy – a chase sequence involving a rolling suitcase and a bit about Turk’s pronunciation of the word “tortoise” come to mind – but there are far too many scenes that are bound to leave viewers wondering if they somehow missed the punchline (don’t fret, hypothetical viewers – you didn’t).
“…the premise is a slam-dunk as far as high-concept comedies go…”
For his part, Banderas does seem to be having a good time strutting around Chile as the oft-clueless Turk, and he fully commits to the goofiness in a way that’s pretty endearing – this isn’t the paycheck-cashing hackwork of a past-his-prime action star, at least. Unfortunately, the supporting cast is of little assistance, though, their characters and performances ranging from barely tolerable (former Bond girl Kurylenko) to downright annoying – the latter exemplified by a crass, clueless Aussie mercenary played by Martin Dingle Wall and, worst of all, Valley, who seems to be channeling a sub-SNL sketch performer’s impression of Aaron Eckhart.
All of which is to say that Gun Shy is unlikely to leave much of an impression, even on those who’ve followed Banderas’s interestingly hit-and-miss career. It’s nowhere near as bad as the noteworthy disaster Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, it’s obviously light years removed from his work with Pedro Almodóvar, and if it’s shooting for the lively thrills of The Mask of Zorro or Banderas’s collaborations with Robert Rodriguez, it seriously misses the mark. It’s not hard to see the appeal of a movie like this – again, the premise is a slam-dunk as far as high-concept comedies go – but the execution is, at best, lacking, and at worst, baffling (why, for example, does this movie have more false endings than Return of the King?). With all the potential here, it’s tempting to consider what Gun Shy might have been, but unfortunately, we’re left to be disappointed by what it is: a really fun pitch that’s hopelessly in search of a movie.
Gun Shy (2017) Directed by Simon West. Written by Toby Davies and Mark Haskell Smith. Starring Antonio Banderas, Olga Kurylenko, Ben Cura, Mark Valley, Aisling Loftus, Mark Dingle Wall.
1 1/2 out of 5