Aric Avelino’s ‘American Gun’ (2005)

14Mar07

American Gun is a well-intentioned though not entirely successful film. Director Aric Avelino intertwines three separate stories into one narrative: the mother (Marcia Gay Harden) of a perpetrator of a Columbine-like school shooting and her son (Chris Marquette, Joan of Arcadia) struggle with the aftermath of that event; a principal (Forest Whitaker) of a Chicago high school fights to keep violence out of his school; and a college student (Linda Cardellini) reconsiders her attitude toward guns when a friend is assaulted.

Everyone involved in this film has his or her heart in the right place, which makes me really want to like this movie. Of the three stories, the Marcia Gay Harden narrative works best. That story — the story of the family members of the shooter and their response to the shooting — is not a story that I have seen explored in a movie before. I also liked the accompanying thread about the police officer who first arrived at the scene of the shooting. However, the final scene of his storyline (the robbery at the gas station) should have been cut. I think that the scene between Frank and Janet was an organic end — I dislike the testosterone-fueled impulse to include that gas station scene. And, really, did Tally have to die? What was the point?

The Chicago storyline was clichéed and predictable. The only piece that I found fresh and enjoyable was the bits between Carter and his son. Mary Ann’s story…I think that there was some potential with that plot — again, because it offered a unique viewpoint of the mom-and-pop gun shop owner — but Avelino failed to write the story with any dramatic tension.

American Gun is not as illuminating as it would hope to be about the effects of gun violence in the United States, but it is definitely worth a viewing for the strong performances.

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