Writer and Director: Gigi Gaston
A film-noir of limited success, 9 Bullets is a fragmentary attempt to recreate an Eighties classic.
Directed by Gigi Gaston, the film plunges us in darkness and confusion. The camera lurches as we follow characters at a point of crisis. A couple are driving at high speed down a motorway. We begin to piece the story together as the man phones his neighbour, Gypsy (played by Game of Thrones Lena Headey). The man, an accountant, has made the mistake of crossing a local mobster, Jack (Sam Worthington) and is now on the run for his life. He begs Gypsy to keep his son safe. This is not a random request: Jack is Gypsy’s former lover.
Gypsy finds the couple’s son hiding in her bathroom. The message has been well-placed: she understands the consequences if the boy, Sam (Dean Scott Vazquez) is found by Jack. The boy holds a laptop containing details to a Bitcoin account Jack considers his. Gypsy rings the boy’s uncle, Rabbi Stein (John Ales). Despite the Rabbi’s reluctance to take the boy, Gypsy is adamant. They get in her car, aiming to reach the Rabbi in North Dakota as soon as possible. What ensues is a cross-country chase from California to the Mid-West.
If this all sounds familiar, it is essentially a reboot of crime thriller Gloria starring Gena Rowlands. But Gaston plays her ace in the latter half of the film, where we settle into a rapport with Headey and Vazquez. The two actors work well together, despite a patchy script. As the villain of the piece, Sam Worthington gives a very disappointing, lacklustre performance. Any quality of menace comes not from him, but his hired goons who will go to any lengths to impress their boss.
Among this intense burst of narrative detail, there is the briefest character sketch of Gypsy herself. She has been working as a burlesque dancer (we watch her glittering final show), and her retirement plan involves writing a memoir. She is a woman wiser than her circumstances, carrying a loss that continues to haunt her.
Headey seems like the perfect casting for Gypsy. A woman so weighed down with secrets she has to get them onto the page, Headey has made a living out of playing complex, contradictory women. However, Gaston’s sketch stays pretty much where it is. Headey tries her best to elevate the material, but there’s just not enough to work with.
The hurried, clumsy exposition is ultimately what spoils 9 Bullets and it’s a shame, as better elements risk going unnoticed. Cinematographer Byron Werner documents scenic panoramas of American wilderness so beautifully, Visit USA should hire him for their next campaign. The soundtrack – classic Americana with an indie vibe – captures a sense of the open road, of possibility and personal transformation. This is the film’s ultimate target, but 9 Bullets gets too mired in cliché to articulate anything new. The promise of a better film is tantalisingly close, but Gaston is never quite sure of her aim.
Signature Entertainment presents Nine Bullets on Digital Platforms 6th June & DVD 13th June.