*** Read my interview with Gun Shy and Con Air director Simon West ***
“Never mess with the llama… they are proud beasts!” sys a kidnapper of western tourists and would-be pirate in Chile, after a particularly obnoxious American CEO has tried to shoot one. It turns out llamas can projectile vomit at will, as well as kicking you in the head.
Gun Shy, from Con Air and The Mechanic director Simon West, was financed with crowdfunding, the first Hollywood movie to be paid for in this way – it’s a technique usually utilised by indie filmmakers. I’m not sure if any llama fans put up any of the $1.9 million budget, though they do come out looking good here, being cute, fluffy and kickass.
Antonio Banderas is Turk, a retired rock star, hugely rich thanks to his now-defunct band’s biggest hit, Teenage Ass Patrol. He’s Chilean, and speaks with an accent, though this doesn’t stop him constantly claiming he is a born and bred Londoner.
Wife Sheila (Olga Kurylenko) is lovely – still excited to be visiting countries she’s never been to before, taking pictures, going sightseeing. Unsurprisingly after a long career as a supermodel, she also has a few insecurities: “Be honest, am I Yoko Ono?” she asks her husband at one point.
Turk is bored, but lazy, spending hours watching television, then when a programme enrages him summoning three staff members to chuck his enormous TV in the pool in an act of rock star defiance.
But he and Sheila are off to Chile, presumably for him to both reconnect with his roots and completely deny them.
Once there he lies by the freezing pool, imagining the hotel cleaners making out in front of him, while she joins a minibus tour looking at those llamas. And before anyone slags her off for going hiking in white skinny jeans and bright red lippy, that’s exactly what I do. (Daily I await John Wick’s phone call requesting laundry tips.)
It’s on the llama tour with two other couples that Sheila is kidnapped by pirates with a social conscience, who only realise they’ve hit paydirt abducting a rock god’s wife when they get back to their hideout.
Having accidentally kidnapped someone with actual money, the pirates are wrong-footed and only ask for a million dollars ransom, peanuts to Turk who once bought a tortoise for double that in the hope he could both ride it and use it as a table.
Turk genuinely loves Sheila and is happy to pay up, but unfortunately the American Government have other ideas: “I’m not starting an Indigogo for ISIS, I’m getting my wife back!” he pleads but to no avail, and much that follows is a slapstick chase where US operative Ben Harding (Mark Valley) tries to stop Turk paying the kidnappers anything at all while Turk rather ineptly tries to save her.
Chief pirate Juan Carlos (Ben Cura) is rather out of his depth, and Sheila twigs early on that he hasn’t been a pirate for that long at all. Apart from his job as a kidnapper, Juan Carlos is handsome, kind, and worries about the inequalities within society, so I can’t actually see many women wanting to escape. And he’s far too nice to cut off an ear as happens to poor Paul Getty in All The Money In The World. He doesn’t even confiscate Sheila’s red lippy.
There’s always an attempt at bonding between kidnapper and kidnappee in movies, and Juan Carlos and Sheila compare hard luck stories, though eventually when faced with his tale of woe – involving yes, a pet dog – she graciously concedes defeat.
Much of the humour is dated, and there are some horrible, racist characters – unpleasant stereotypes can work in comedy but they actually need fleshing out to work, even as simple objects of our opprobrium.
Considerably more fun is Clive Muggleton, the Australian fixer brought in to help Turk retrieve Sheila in one piece. Clive has teeth that look like they have been whitened with Tippex and an attitude towards women so out-of-date he makes those 100 year old tins of corned beef they keep finding in long-lost camps at the North Pole looks like artisanal sourdough sandwiches.
If you worked with Clive in an office and ever had to call the HR department you can guarantee that one of the options would be Press 3 to complain about Clive Muggleton. Always greeting assistant Marybeth (Aisling Loftus) with some sexist “compliment”, eventually when he calls her and speaks in a foreign language her response is simply “I’m going to assume that was offensive”.
Clive is so supremely over the top, and throws himself into his role as Turk’s fixer with such puppy-like glee, it’s actually hard not to like him, and as the kind of feminist everyone hates (ie any feminist) I really don’t think I’ve ever said that before. I have no idea if Martin Dingle Wall, who plays Clive, was acting very hard or not acting at all, but I bet he had a ball playing him.
Banderas looks the part, and encased in garishly patterned flares, a matching bandana tied round his long brown curls, he most reminded me of Edina in Absolutely Fabulous. He imbues his character with a sweet ineptitude, but old jokes that could have been improved with expert comic timing are left groanworthy.
Kurylenko is sweet and sparky, though she isn’t in the second half of the movie that much. David Mitchell also pops up as Turk’s never-available manager. I say never available, until the post credits scenes when he gets a movie’s worth of action in one go. Ben Cura is fine as the world’s nicest pirate since Tom The Cabin Boy from Captain Pugwash, though he could have been played by a South American actor.
I did laugh at Gun Shy, though I also groaned a lot; the gags are often old-fashioned. Though the main problem is that the humour should be either more sophisticated, or more watching-through-your-fingers silly.
I really enjoyed Sacha Baron Cohen’s very polarising Grimsby from 2016, a movie which also uses stars and then pushes its comedy to the absolute extreme (if you haven’t seen it, at one point two brothers end up hiding out in an elephant’s vagina. Well I did tell you it was polarising). Watching that film I had many can’t-help-laughing moments, and Gun Shy should maybe have had the courage of its convictions and just pushed the craziness to the limit.
Gun Shy is now available on iTunes. Check out my interview with Gun Shy and Con Air director Simon West.