From the Archive – Mean Guns (1997)

Mean Guns


Directed by Albert Pyun
Starring…Well, it’s got Christopher Lambert and Ice-T in it

A crime boss in ‘The Syndicate’ (like the Mob, but multiracial apparently) gathers a whole bunch of treacherous ex-employees in a newly built prison, where they are to fight to the death. The last three surviving are to split $10,000,000 between them. As the battle rages, dubious alliances are formed and broken between the killers, until finally it comes down to a four-way face off between Lou (Lambert), Moon (Ice-T), Marcus (Michael Halsey) and accountant Cam (Deborah Van Valkenburg). Pretty much everyone dies, except Cam who gets to split with the cash and the little girl who Lou snatched from her abusive father, because his real daughter was raped; or killed; or something.

It’s never really made clear. Nor is anything else.

What’s wrong with it?

The film makes no sense. Really. Even by the BMM’s standards, it’s pretty bloody random. What little exposition there is is garbled, mumbled, and contradictory. The action scenes are rubbish, largely consisting of one person after another firing a gun off the side of the screen. The whole thing is backed by a bizarre score, which seesaws between sub-Morriconne guitar jangles and Prez Prado mambo numbers.

What’s right with it?

Nothing much.

How bad is it really?

Albert Pyun occasionally shows signs that he is almost a very good director.

This is not one of those occasions.

Best bit?

Random mambo plays while Moon explains that everyone is going to die. When he asks if there are any questions, Lou asks: “Where can I get this CD?”

That really is the high point.

What’s up with…?

  • Lord. Where to start?
  • The mambo? In a book, it might be a little creepy; the idea of killers playing real, live deathmatch to a cheery mambo soundtrack. In the hands of a master film-maker, it might work to have a tense cat and mouse to same. But brutal game of death gunfights to a mambo movie score? Worst scoring decision since Ladyhawke.
  • The set-up? This is supposed to be for the entertainment of the Syndicate, yet they dump the guns on the crowd, thus ensuring a swift attrition. Surely the smart thing would be to distribute them around the playing area, a la Quake.
  • The ambush? Four people setting up an ambush by sitting in an open space, surrounded by an elevated gallery. Now, call me crazy…
  • The shoot-out? Ice-T hands out four Desert Eagles, and Lou’s isn’t loaded. A professional killer had a gun in his hand, and let someone give him another gun, and tried to use it. I don’t think so.


Production values – Albert Pyun’s trademark bizarre use of filters (orange outside, blue inside) dominates here, and is the technical high-point. The fight choreography is non-existent, the sound is crappy and the editing sucks. All in all, it looks as if the film was put together by a bunch of monkeys on crack. 18

Dialogue and performances – Even by their own standards, Lambert and Ice-T sleepwalk through these roles. Everyone else is worse. Except the little girl who sits in a car outside the prison all through the movie, who is great. You know; assuming she really was supposed to be the secret head of the Syndicate.14

Plot and execution – More monkeys. They say that enough monkeys with enough typewriters could produce the works of Shakespeare. As my flatmate said – borrowing from something we can’t quite remember – five monkeys; two typewriters. And some crack. Same for the direction, which seems to have been of the order of: “Do this and this, we’ll wave the camera at you” (or maybe just “Ook”). 20

Randomness – Lou shot a kid. No wait, his daughter was raped. No wait, Marcus killed his daughter. What’s going on? And that’s the questions around just one character. 16

Waste of Potential – Brutal cat-and-mouse around a prison; it could have worked. Unlikely; but it could have done. 10

Overall 78%


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