Under the Gun is a movie directed by Matthew George and stars Richard Norton as Frank, the beleaguered owner of a night club.
Frank is “under the gun” because he has borrowed money from mobsters, who, as you would expect, are now itching to collect on his debts. Frank has to sell his club in a hurry in order to come up with the money, while at the same time his creditors keep attacking the night club. As you have probably observed, the mobster attacks seem rather counter-productive, since the villains are just making it harder for Frank to pay back their money. On top of this, Frank also happens to be a martial arts expert and former fighting champion, so he is able to use his prowess to keep beating the villains, who inexplicably keep coming back for more. Yes, the gang of bad guys keeps getting bigger and bigger, but in all honesty, the tactics do not change, and the greater numbers only mean a larger quantity of punching bags for Richard Norton.
Clearly, Under the Gun has a rather ludicrous plot. Still, this is not necessarily enough to ruin a good martial arts film. Many others, such as Time and Tide, have storylines that are much more ridiculous, but they are executed with so much humor, style, inventiveness, and acting prowess that the crazy plotlines actually become an asset to the overall movie.
Unfortunately, you will not find those sorts of creative resources in Under the Gun. Firstly, the fight scenes are often rather humorless and repetitive. Also, the villains are extremely dull. Of course, we should not expect an amazingly compelling villain on the lines of Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, but even in low-budget, tossed-off action films like this one, the presence of a suitably threatening bad guy is very important. Otherwise, the entire exercise feels rather pointless. Richard Norton makes an adequate main character, but he is unlikely to stick in the minds of viewers after the film is over.
The film’s true bright spot is provided by Kathy Long, the actress and martial arts expert who plays Lisa, Frank’s ex-girlfriend and ally against the mobsters. Lisa is just one of several female characters the script presents as past and current love interests to Frank, and, as far as physical appearance is concerned, is not as pretty as the other women. However, through sheer fighting talent and charisma, Kathy Long is able to overshadow the other actresses here, and even Richard Norton himself. Though Under the Gun takes the typical action-movie route of relegating women to sidekick and/or love interest roles, this (and Richard Norton’s unremarkable screen presence) cannot get in the way of Long’s talent. One hopes she ends up in more action or martial arts movies, but this time in roles that allow her to take center stage.
In the end, this film is a not-too-bad time-waster that you might enjoy just for the fight scenes, particularly if you keep an eye on Ms. Long.
Director: Jesse Bean
Cast: Jesse Bean, Jack Wallace, Mindy Cohn, John Doe, Christopher Atkins