Thursday, October 4, 2012

Gun Crazy (1950)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, rented from Hollywood Express in Cambridge.

I picked this up on a whim while browsing the Noir section of my favorite video store, attracted as I am to ladies with guns and fashionable outfits. Turns out I made a good decision! Based loosely on the Bonnie & Clyde legend and with a script co-written by Dalton Trumbo, Gun Crazy follows good-natured gun fiend Barton Tare (John Dall) as he goes from small-town ex-soldier to nationally known robber along with his equally-skilled wife, Annie (Peggy Cummins). The two meet while working as sharpshooters for a traveling carnival, and while Annie makes no attempt to hide her own opportunistic, self-interested nature, Barton is instantly smitten (which makes a lot of sense, since she's super hot and really skilled with a gun). They run off together after their boss tries to kill them in a jealous rage, and take to robbing banks and stores after a time. Bart's strict ethics soon go up against Annie's looser moral code, but their love for one another remains strong as they run from the law.

The story of two people in love going on a crime spree has been done in various incarnations, and it's always kind of a romanticized thing. Two against the world, misunderstood by the general public, taking risks for their love, etc; it's easy to fall under its spell. Gun Crazy (originally titled "Deadly is the Female") is advertised as a portrait of an all-American Good Boy turned bad by his seductive, evil ladyfriend, but I found it more nuanced than that. Bart is a basically good dude, yes, and generally naive, but it's not like Annie is some horrific she-devil who hypnotizes him into robbing banks and sometimes killing people. She has a lot of regrets and hopes she can "be good" with Bart, but finds her nature doesn't lend itself easily to settling down and living a standard, boring life. They decide to turn to a life of crime together, and even when they try to go straight, their desperation and true affection for one another keep them on a destructive path.

A solid script, varied pace, stylistic flair, and two top-notch performances make Gun Crazy an all-around enjoyable film. I loved both John Dall (who is fucking ADORABLE) and Peggy Cummins (who is wonderfully intense) in the lead roles, they took a not-so-new story and gave it a fresh and sexy feel. There are a few compositional missteps (the drawn-out opening flashback stands out, especially) but overall I really dug it.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: I couldn't help but think of Malick's Badlands, which has a different tone and style but similar themes.

1 comment:

  1. I can only wish real-life crooks were as good-natured and a lot less brutal. That way, I'd see a lot less shootouts with Mobile patrols Bristol on TV.

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