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MEN WITH GUNS

SYNOPSIS:
In an unnamed Latin American country, wealthy and respected Dr Fuentes (Federico Jose Luppi) is nearing retirement and has recently become widowed. Abandoning his usual beach holiday and against the advice of his middle-class children, the idealistic Fuentes decides to visit the young medical students he trained to combat disease in remote Indian villages. Along the way he meets orphan boy Conejo (Dan Rivera Gonzalez), army deserter Domingo (Damian Delgado) and priest Padre Portillo (Damian Alcazar) who has lost his faith. As their journey progresses Fuentes discovers that each of his students has been murdered by "the men with guns".

"While the term 'independent filmmaker' is often carelessly applied, John Sayles is the real thing. He raises his own finance and writes, directs and edits pictures which wear the stamp of his convictions and not those of a Hollywood studio. Imagine a studio producing an almost exclusively Spanish-language film in which the American characters (tourists played by Mandy Patinkin and Kathryn Grody) are relegated to the sidelines. It's somewhat ironic that the dramatic trajectory of Men With Guns closely resembles MGM's The Wizard Of Oz. Fuentes and the characters he picks up along the way are searching for the village of Cerca del Cielo, a supposedly Oz-like haven and a place where each believes they will find redemption or at least safety. This is a film of great compassion in which Sayles makes a plea for all oppressed people, with Fuentes (wonderfully played by Luppi) acting as a perfect vehicle for audience consciousness-raising without being used as a mouthpiece for political rhetoric. Above all, this is a very sad film - the scene in which the priest tells a supposedly tall story around a campfire is unbearably moving. Sayles doesn't compromise and there is no climactic scene where the peasants rise up and win freedom from their oppressors. For that we should be angry at the truth and thankful for the integrity of Sayles' vision."
Richard Kuipers

"The title may suggest slam-bang action, but don’t be fooled. For the most part, this is a grim tract about colonisation, genocide, and privileged ignorance, though it finally turns into a more abstract fable. Dr Fuentes’ quest for his former students becomes a kind of pilgrim’s progress towards death across a despoiled pastoral landscape –a premise that recalls two of the major films of recent years, Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man and Abbas Kiarostami’s still unreleased Taste Of Cherry. (For a freakish take on similar material, check out on video Johnny Depp’s overlooked directorial debut The Brave, an atrocity that haunts the mind like a recurring bad dream.) In comparison, director John Sayles has relatively little cinematic flair: his efforts to combine a political message with suspense and metaphysical riddling have a frequently slack, uncertain rhythm. Working outside his native language and culture, Sayles rarely gets under the skin of his characters, who exist mainly as schematic types (a hero who stands for well-meaning white liberalism, etc). The film scores easy laughs off a couple of dumb, patronising American tourists, but in some ways Sayles’ own approach is equally dubious, with its deliberate elision of political and geographical specifics, making Latin America a generic locus of ‘Third World’ suffering. Still, this symbolic journey gradually gathers some force – and at a time when our arthouse screens are ruled by smarmy, banal ‘black comedies,’ it’s a relief to see a film that takes themes like murder and responsibility seriously at all."
Jake Wilson

"Men with Guns, though not quite as successful as his Lone Star, is nonetheless an impressive, bold work, one that takes the notable indie director into new territory. A powerful study of Central American atrocities, the film is poetic and visually fluid, as well as a memorable character piece. Sayles presents Men with Guns from Fuentes' perspective-to represent the audience. As played by Luppi, Fuentes is a startling character, one whose depth of change as he traverses the jungles and poverty of Sayles' unnamed country, is riveting. As with all of Sayles' work, Men With Guns is a highly political drama, But in simplistic terms, it's also an adventure story - a sort of Don Quixote meets Heart of Darkness. What marks this film as special isn't just that the surface details are believable, but that there is great richness and breadth to the issues addressed within. This is a thought-provoking motion picture that, like many of Sayles' other efforts, demands that we ponder complex questions, while at the same time, be entertained. The result is an enthralling piece of intelligent cinema."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1
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TRAILER

See Paul Fischer's interview with director/writer/editor
JOHN SAYLES

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

MEN WITH GUNS (MA 15+)
(US/Mexico)

CAST: Federico Luppi, Dan Rivera Gonzalez, Damian Delgado, Tania Cruz, Damian

Alcazar, Mandy Patinkin, Kathryn Grody

DIRECTOR: John Sayles

PRODUCER: Maggie Renzi, R. Paul Miller

SCRIPT: John Sayles

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Slawomir Idziak

EDITOR: John Sayles

MUSIC: Mason Daring

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Felipe Fernández del Paso

RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: February 18, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: October 6, 1999

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment







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