An impressive but uneven debut feature, Stacy Cochran's MY NEW GUN boasts high production values and a briskly paced narrative. It also suffers from an identity crisis and, despite the help of a uniformly strong cast, fails to fulfill its potential.
On the surface, Debbie (Diane Lane) and Gerald Bender (Stephen Collins) are the photogenic embodiment of the American dream. Gerald has a glowing reputation as a New Jersey radiologist and Debbie is his beautiful, somewhat passive wife. There doesn't seem to be much genuine warmth in their
marriage, but there is plenty of boredom. When their newly engaged friends, Irwin (Bruce Altman) and Myra (Maddie Corman), come by for dinner, they bring along Myra's new surprise--a handgun they have purchased for their own protection. The next day, Gerald follows suit and buys a .38 revolver for
his household. Debbie is very uncomfortable with the whole thing, especially when Gerald unsuccessfully tries to teach her how to use it.
Skippy (James LeGros), a mysterious neighbor from across the street who seems to hold a certain power over Debbie, pleads with her to borrow the gun. She refuses but Skippy helps himself to the piece anyway. When Gerald finds out, he retrieves the gun but accidentally shoots himself in the foot.
While he recuperates in the hospital, Debbie and Skippy grow closer, though she's convinced he's up to no good. Skippy finally convinces her that he needs the gun to protect his mother, Kimmy (Tess Harper), a former country music star who has developed a taste for depressant drugs, from Andrew
(Bill Raymond), a deranged faith healer. Skippy and Debbie fall into bed, and she seems to come alive for the first time in his arms. Skippy borrows the gun again, this time with Debbie's permission.
When Gerald comes home from the hospital he promptly asks Debbie for a divorce. Meanwhile, Skippy begins shifting his mother from hotel to hotel in order to stay one step ahead of Andrew. After Andrew visits Debbie and interrogates her about Kimmy's whereabouts, she realizes the seriousness of the
situation. Debbie and Skippy tell their story to the police, who agree to shadow them until Andrew shows up. At Myra and Irwin's wedding, Andrew appears with an Uzi, but Debbie pulls out her gun and distracts him while the cops make their move and arrest him. The wedding goes on as Debbie and
Skippy ride off into the distance.
While writer-director Stacy Cochran is to be commended for getting her first feature made barely a year after graduating from Columbia University's graduate film program, MY NEW GUN feels like two disparate films spliced together. The darkly comic first half satirizes suburban domesticity, while
the second half degenerates into contrived melodrama topped by an unbelievable denouement.
MY NEW GUN's visuals are rich and effective. Cochran's sparing use of only a few locations is one way to keep a budget from going overboard, and her resourcefulness is to be commended; the film looks as though it cost five times the actual $2 million budget. The male-female relationships are well
handled, if weakened by the film's stylistic shift. It's also a welcome change to see a film in which, despite the fact that a violent weapon functions as a key thematic element, there is virtually no violence. What little there is takes place off camera--a wise decision.
Cochran's keen eye for casting is apparent from the leads down to the bit parts. Lane (CHAPLIN, TV's "Lonesome Dove") is wonderful as the blossoming, liberated Debbie. Somewhat underused in recent years, she perfectly captures her character's transformation from suburban slave to independent
achiever. LeGros (GUNCRAZY, DRUGSTORE COWBOY) is just spooky enough to pull off Skippy. As the quintessential yuppie, Collins is self-centeredness personified.
MY NEW GUN introduces a filmmaker who certainly has the ability to pique an audience's curiosity. If her story had maintained a more constant focus, it would have been more powerful and more entertaining. (Profanity, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: R
- Review: An impressive but uneven debut feature, Stacy Cochran's MY NEW GUN boasts high production values and a briskly paced narrative. It also suffers from an identity crisis and, despite the help of a uniformly strong cast, fails to fulfill its potential. On th… (more)