DVD Tuesday: ‘Suck’ and ‘Gunless’

by W. Andrew Powell

Paul Gross in Gunless

Paul Gross in Gunless

This week on DVD and Blu-ray: Paul Gross stars as a gun-slinging American in the Canadian western, Gunless; a medicore band makes it big with a little help from their vampiric bassist in Suck; plus a look at The Last Song, starring Miley Cyrus.

Starring: Paul Gross, Sienna Guillory, Dustin Milligan, Tyler Mane, Callum Keith Rennie, Graham Greene
Director: William Phillips

Rated: 6.5/10

Paul Gross plays American gunslinger the Montana Kid in the Canadian western, Gunless, a fish-out-of-water comedy set in a small frontier town known as Barclay’s Brush.

The Kid, as he’s known, finds himself trapped in the town as Ben Cutler, a bounty hunter played by Callum Keith Rennie, slowly hunts him down.

While the Kid tries to figure out the lay of the land, he has a hard time with the Canadian frontier where shotguns are aplenty, but pistols and hand guns can hardly be found, and most of the town’s population are just not what the American is used to.

The townsfolk go out of their way to make the gunslinger at home though, and most of them are awed by his presence, but he’s picked a fight with the town’s blacksmith, and while it’s a petty argument, he won’t back down. Since there are no other guns around, he’ll have to repair a dusty, broken pistol before he can face his past, his pride, and his only enemy in the small town.

Poking fun at American and Canadian stereotypes in a Wild West setting, Gunless is more of a straight-up comedy than anything else, and it is a lot of fun, but perhaps not quite as wild west as it should have been.

Gross’ performance as this wannabe bad boy gunslinger is the highlight of the film, but the ensemble is what ultimately makes Gunless work, and it’s perhaps why, even though I’m rating the film somewhat low, I still enjoyed it. From Sienna Guillory as The Kid’s love interest to Dustin Milligan, Tyler Mane, and a cameo by Graham Greene, everyone involved gives the story wit, warmth, and an abundance of charm.

My real problem with the film is that Gunless is less than rollicking, wild, or hilarious. The action, when it happens, is great, but for a film that is really a comedy, it’s just not funny enough. There also needed to be a greater transition for Gross’ character across the length of the film, since it feels like he barely changes at all. What’s missing is that life-altering decision at a key point in the story which drives the mood to the finale.

Still, if you’re a fan of Gross you’ll likely love this film for him alone. Check out the DVD for some well made extras as well, including a couple of making-of featurettes, a look at how the sets were built for Barclay’s Brush, and maybe my personal favorite, The Good, The Bad and the Canadians, which looks at the cast of the film.

Starring: Rob Stefaniuk, Dave Foley, Jessica Pare, Paul Anthony, Malcolm McDowell, Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Henry Rollins, Carole Pope, Moby, Mike Lobel
Director: Rob Stefaniuk

Rated: 6/10

Writer, director and actor Rob Stefaniuk was a hot topic when he debuted the extremely funny comedy Phil The Alien at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival. He’s a talented filmmaker with a unique perspective, which is why I was so excited about Suck and its amazing cast of rock stars, all jumbled together in a comic road trip about a band that gets mixed up with vampires.

Stefaniuk stars as Joey, the lead singer in a crumby rock band that is going nowhere, at least until their bassist Jennifer, played by Jessica Par?, is turned into a vampire.

At first, the guys don’t really notice the difference, but as people start showing up at their shows, and their roadie Hugo, played by the hilarious Chris Ratz, starts acting funny, it’s obvious that something is different.

With appearances by the likes of Alice Cooper as the wise bartender, Malcolm McDowell as the vampire-hunting Eddy Van Helsing, plus Moby, Dave Foley, Henry Rollins, and Iggy Pop, Suck is a star-studded comedy, there’s no doubt about it. However the film is kind of toothless, if you’ll excuse the pun, and it’s not even remotely as funny as it should have been.

Aside from Ratz, and some of the funnier moments with Cooper and Iggy Pop, Suck is a slow-burning road trip movie that just needed an edge, and a stronger script. There are momentary laughs, like when we see Jennifer drinking a cashier dry with a straw, and the star power is fun each time they show up, but there are not enough scenes that jump off the screen. Since the film is also not the least bit scary, Suck should have been a lot funnier, but Stefaniuk doesn’t deliver enough laughs.

Aside from the cameos, Suck does have one other big thing going for it though and that’s the music by former Doughboys frontman John Kastner. It’s satirical fun, for the most part, but Kastner’s music and the film’s soundtrack give Suck some bragging rights.

For Canadian film fans, I’m lightly recommending Suck, but it’s best reserved for music fanatics looking for something amusing, or big fans of Iggy Pop or Alice Cooper. Suck is a technically well-made film that is noticeably better than Phil The Alien, but something is still missing in the script department.

The DVD came with only one featurette about making the film, and although it is worth a watch, it’s disappointing that more features weren’t included on the release.

Also available this week…

The Last Song
Starring: Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, Kelly Preston, Bobby Coleman, Liam Hemsworth
Director: Julie Ann Robinson

Nicholas Sparks’ novel about a father and daughter trying to reconnect over a summer in a Southern American beach town. Using music to bond, Steve, played by Greg Kinnear, and Ronnie, played by Miley Cyrus, slowly come together, even though Ronnie starts out wishing she could be home in New York City instead of stuck with her father.

Earning poor reviews across the board, critics don’t have a lot of good things to say about Julie Ann Robinson’s summer teen movie, but Jen Yamato of Movies.com had some small praise.

“In addition to a knack for corny plot lines and montages of young people making out along the Southeastern coastline,” Yamato wrote, “Sparks has a sixth sense for making audiences cry.”

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