American Gun

Aric Avelino's complex, ambitious film weaves together three separate story lines that unfold in three different U.S. cities, and cleaves to playwright Anton Chekhov's famous dictum concerning guns: If there's a gun in Act 1, it must go off by Act 3. Many guns litter this multicharacter examination of the insidious ways firearms have become a fixture in...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Aric Avelino's complex, ambitious film weaves together three separate story lines that unfold in three different U.S. cities, and cleaves to playwright Anton Chekhov's famous dictum concerning guns: If there's a gun in Act 1, it must go off by Act 3. Many guns litter this multicharacter examination of the insidious ways firearms have become a fixture in American life, but only one is ever fired and with devastating results. Three years after a pair of teenage gunmen ended the lives of several teachers and fellow students at an Oregon high school then turned their weapons on themselves, Janet (Marcia Gay Harden), whose son was one of the killers, and the police officer (Tony Goldwyn) who was the first on the scene are forced to relive that painful day, thanks in large part to a newsmagazine's profile of the incident. Janet agrees to speak on camera in exchange for the money she desperately needs to continue sending her younger son, David (Christopher Marquette), to a private Catholic School away from the victims' friends and family members. The interview, however, brings so much unwanted attention that the administration of David's new school requests he enroll elsewhere. David is left with no choice but to return to the school his older brother changed forever. Meanwhile, on Chicago's impoverished South Side, dedicated high-school principal Carter (Forest Whitaker) is spending so much energy trying to keep his students in school and guns out that he has little time for his wife (Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon) and young son (Blake Hightower). But despite his best efforts, he catches Jay (Arlen Escarpeta), one of his most promising students, stashing a handgun behind a grate outside the school. Carl takes the gun and threatens to expel Jay, even though Jay needs it to protect himself while working nights at a gas station in a very dangerous part of town. At a very different kind of school — the University of Virginia — college student Mary-Anne (Linda Cardellini) has agreed to help her grandfather (Donald Sutherland) at the family gun shop, even though spending her afternoons surrounded by all that ammo makes her visibly uncomfortable. Her attitude toward handguns begins to change, however, shortly after she attempts to rescue a very drunk friend (Schuyler Fisk) from an imminent gang rape at a college party and is badly bruised. Angry and frustrated, Mary-Anne begins taking lessons at a local gun range. Avelino manages to keep all these balls — and more — in the air while sketching out characters and his antifirearm theme with remarkable economy. Not every story line is wrapped up entirely satisfactorily, but the overall effect of watching his film is a bit like a nerve-racking game of Russian roulette: You just know a gun is going to go off, but you don't know which of this multitude of characters it's going to hit.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Aric Avelino's complex, ambitious film weaves together three separate story lines that unfold in three different U.S. cities, and cleaves to playwright Anton Chekhov's famous dictum concerning guns: If there's a gun in Act 1, it must go off by Act 3. Many… (more)

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