“American Gun” might better be called “The Secret Life of a Gun” as we follow a .357 Magnum used to kill innocent Penny Tillman (Virginia Madsen). She’s innocently walking to her car and gunned down in cold blood over a botched robbery. James Coburn plays the tortured father who must deal with the death of his daughter at the hands of the weapon. He takes a journey across America following the serial number of the gun from its birth at the factory to gun shops across the country from owner to owner. It’s a fascinating tale slipping skillfully from taut drama to documentary-like sequences when dealing with the specifics regarding the journey of the gun itself.
You might expect a film like this to hit you over the head with a liberal anti-gun message, and there are shades of that, but the sequence following the gun are used to present information without feeling like propaganda.
James Coburn commands the screen. He is a powerhouse of an actor, and we may have forgotten it. (What’s he been doing all these years?) If there is any actor deserving of a comeback, it’s Coburn. His character is haunted by more than just the demons from his time spent as a soldier in World War II. There isn’t a false moment on screen for Coburn, who can do no wrong. In addition to Coburn’s killer performance, the story is well told and the ending a shocker. “American Gun” is a powerful indie film that deserves notice.