Monday, March 22, 2010

6 GUNS

The inmates of The Asylum turn their attention temporarily from their usual cheap CGI-laden sci-fi blockbuster rip-offs with 6 GUNS (2010), a decidedly low-tech - and surprisingly enjoyable - excursion into the Western genre.

A small band of outlaws, led by a man named Lee Horn (screenwriter Geoff Meed), murder a retired sheriff and his two young sons, then gang-rape his wife (Sage Mears) and leave her for dead. When a famous bounty hunter named Frank Allison (TV vet Barry Van Dyke, DIAGNOSIS MURDER, GALACTICA 1980) arrives in town, the desperate widow begs him to teach her how to shoot a gun, so she can avenge her family's deaths.

For decades, the low-budget, formula B-Western was the bread and butter of Poverty Row studios and independent producers in Hollywood. They could be made cheaply since they repeatedly reused sets, props and locations, and nearly always turned a profit. But not anymore. The genre has virtually died out. Western movies have become very rare, even from the major studios, so the fact that The Asylum - self-proclaimed makers of crappy knock-offs - decided to even attempt the genre is pretty remarkable. What's perhaps even more remarkable, is that 6 GUNS is a pretty fair movie.

Directed by Shane Van Dyke (son of star Barry), 6 GUNS is a solid entry in the genre, shot with some genuine style and surprisingly decent production value. The acting is generally better than average for an Asylum picture, with particularly good performances by writer Geoff Meed as the villainous Horn and director Van Dyke as one of his gang. The elder Van Dyke doesn't really stretch himself playing the taciturn bounty hunter, but he certainly looks the part, and is thoroughly professional in the role. Familiar television face Greg Evigan (B.J. & THE BEAR, TEK WAR) is also pretty good as the outclassed, small town Sheriff.

I thought the ramshackle Western town they used as a location was pretty cool (I only noticed a couple of fleeting architectural anachronisms), and I liked the fact that they actually used real guns firing blanks instead of just digitally adding muzzle flashes in post - something that I see in far too many microbudgeted features these days. At least with blanks, you get smoke and recoil, and it's a lot more effective, both visually and dramatically.

And, of course, I have to give my usual shout-out to the talented Chris Ridenhour, who once again steps up with a superior musical score.

The Asylum's DVD presentation of 6 GUNS features a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, and a choice of Dolby 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 sound mixes. As usual, there's a short behind-the-scenes featurette, a blooper reel, and a selection of trailers for other recent Asylum films.

6 GUNS is an entertaining, respectable B-Western. It's got a strong - if somewhat familiar - story, good performances, and a very professional look. It is, by far, one of the best productions to come out of the infamous mini-studio, and while it's not necessarily a film one's likely to watch over and over again, it's a fine way to spend 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon.

BUY: 6 Guns