If you've seen Gary Busey doing those Amazon commercials, it may be hard to believe that at one time he was a serious, well regarded actor and not a walking punchline for dimwittedness. However, watching Busey, along with costars Michael Madsen and Jennifer Tilly in the misguided would-be neo-noir "Man with a Gun," one can easily see how their careers went south around the time this film was made in 1995.
In the movie, Busey plays a mob boss who orders a hit on his cheating wife Tilly and hires his top enforcer Madsen. What Busey doesn't know is that Madsen is sleeping with Tilly and that the pair plan to rip him off for a bundle and then fake her death. The latter is possible because she has a polar opposite twin sister (also played by Tilly). The plan goes awry after Madsen kidnaps the twin and then falls for her, because she is so sweet and innocent.
There's the basis for a good thriller here (the film is based on a British crime novel of the 60s), but the screenplay fails to make any of the relationships convincing. In particular, there's absolutely no reason for Madsen, a guy who has heretofore shown no conscience whatsoever, to fall for the "good" Tilly other than the fact that the plot requires it. The story also plays out in a relatively straightforward manner, without the types of twists that usually make this type of film entertaining. There are a couple of double crosses that anyone reading the blurb on the DVD box can probably predict.
The film does set up the noirish atmosphere rather well, with a good jazz score, but that, and a good performance by Robert Loggia as Busey's consigliere, are all the film has going for it. Busey and Tilly overact like crazy as the gonzo mobster and slutty wife. It's hard to believe the clownish Busey could have risen to the level of stick-up man, let alone a powerful mob boss, and anyone with an IQ in double digits would be able to see through Tilly's overblown vamping. To compensate for this overacting by his costars, Madsen sleepwalks his way through the film, rarely registering any inflection or facial expressions whatsoever.
There's a couple of loud action sequences in the film, which are noteworthy for two things. First, Busey seems to have the most ethnically diverse set of henchmen I can recall seeing in a movie, none of who have an iota of intelligence. Second, those same moronic henchmen show the stereotypical B-movie attribute of firing dozens of bullets at an exposed, stationary target without being able to hit a thing.
"Man with a Gun" actually manages to achieve "so bad, it's almost good" status, with some unintended humor, especially in Busey's and Tilly's performances. However, a few unintentional laughs and some good music and photography don't add up to a good movie. The DVD also does viewers no favors with a non-letterboxed, mediocre video quality transfer. The DVD is often available at a bargain price so fans of one of the three stars can add it to their collections at a fairly low price, but, even in the direct-to-video bargain bin, there's lots better options available.