Academy Award® winner James Coburn (Best Supporting Actor, Affliction, 1999) stars with Virginia Madsen (The Haunting in Connecticut) in this critically-acclaimed portrait of loss and redemption.
Life seemed almost perfect for Martin Tillman (Coburn)...until a shattering act of random violence took the life of his daughter Penny (Madsen) during a Christmas visit. Now Martin realizes that there is only one way he can move on from this tragedy—to solve the mystery of Penny's death by tracking the trail of the gun that killed her. Featuring the unforgettable final performance of screen legend James Coburn, this outstanding motion picture follows Martin's dramatic cross-country quest to discover the truth and heal his family.
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If you start watching AMERICAN GUN and are tempted to stop because Virginia Madsen apparently leaves the storyline early, don't! Not only is her character crucial to the overall plot, James Coburn knocks you out cold with his caring, but angry-at-the-world-and-himself portrayal of a father who loses a family member to a fatal gunshot.
I hesitate to describe too much of the plot since there are unexpected turns and twists that shouldn't be revealed, but I can elaborate on the style and lovely quietness of AMERICAN GUN. Maybe "quiet" isn't the whole truth since various gunshots explode throughout the movie as James Coburn explores the history of one gun that has traveled through many different hands. The loudness is also there when he looks back at his own experiences with ammunition in war.
AMERICAN GUN hit me so hard because it is an emotional film more than anything else. At first it seems to be about how a husband and wife each handle grief differently or how one man is determined to find his daughter's killer. In a way, that could sum it up, but there's also a lot about closure and what we think we see versus what is actually there.
The reason this indie deserves more acclaim is because it takes you places you don't expect to go and you are able to experience that great mental process called "thinking." Watch this by yourself--or better yet, rent it with a group of friends who truly enjoy discussing (but not talking to death) a great work of art.
On a side note: The whole cast is just spectacular (a small role by Alexandra Holden will get you a bit teary-eyed), but Coburn and Madsen shine.
The story is fairly fresh; a WWII veteran (played by the then 72 year old Coburn) who has had a relatively successful life loses his daughter to a gun. He goes on a long sabbatical in which he traces the history on the gun that killed his daughter. Positive and negative aspects are explored. A poor inner city student shoots his friend then commits suicide with the gun. A young woman who was kidnapped and put in the back of a trunk uses the gun to save her life. As Coburn is investigating the history of the gun, he is writing letters to his deceased daughter in an effort to cope with the pain. All this is set to flashbacks from his war experience where he first learned to kill a man with a gun.
There are several subplots that are put into the movie; the story of Coburn is coupled with the rebellion of his only granddaughter and the ongoing tale of the gun that killed his daughter. Though it at times is a little messy, Jacobs brings the entire movie together at the end very nicely.
The best part of the movie is Coburn. At the age of 72, he successfully portrays a man that is in pain but who is still tough as nails. In one scene Coburn confronts a man much younger than him and his presence intimidated me. If anything else, this film is worthwhile for this fact alone.
In total, this film is entertaining and thought provoking. Though the general conclusion of Jacobs is that guns are lose-lose, the film doesn't suffer because of this fact. As a member of the NRA and firm gun rights advocate, I thought I was going to be annoyed at this film. I wasn't. The end has Coburn not fighting against guns, nor advocating confiscation, but merely moving on with his life and family.
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