Fast Gun is really a movie about trust. No, not whether we trust Sheriff Jack Steiger (Fast Gun himself) to put his haunted past behind him (he got his partner killed back in L.A.) so that when the chips are down, he’ll redeem himself and not get his trusty Deputy, Cowboy, killed. (Which is fortunate as Fast Gun does let Cowboy get killed.) No, the trust I am referring to is the trust we put in director Cirio H. Santiago to deliver on the complete lack of promise exhibited by the entirety of Fast Gun.
Even by Santiago’s extremely lax standards, Fast Gun is a Filipino action movie that seems as slipshod as the moronic schemes the various bad guys spend the film constantly screwing up. Right from the beginning, it’s clear no one involved with making the movie is paying attention to anything that’s being committed to film.
A series of weapons heists from U.S. military bases is depicted in amateurish detail from the unconvincing buildings masquerading as army bases adorned with generic signs to make sure we know what army base it is to the spinning newspaper headlines nonsensically announcing such things as “Fort Bennings, Missouri: Armory Raid Unsolved.” (There is no Fort Bennings. There is a Fort Benning, but is in Georgia. Also, there is a Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, but not a Camp Leonardwood or Camp Leonard as the movie would have you believe.)
Poor proofreading, derelict set decoration and a lazy research team obviously won’t make or break a movie like Fast Gun though. We’re here for wanton violence, destruction and bad guys getting what they deserve. But it is concerning that the entire reason for these weapons thefts is explained in such a way that doesn’t make any sense.
It’s all an inside job by the CIA headed by Colonel Harper. Apparently Congress cut off a program where weapons were being supplied to some rebels somewhere and now, well, I’m not sure what they’re doing. There didn’t seem to be any plan to steal them and ship them to the rebels. (History shows there’s easier ways to illegally arm insurgents than straight up stealing from an army depot.)
But that’s not even the plan that Fast Gun and Cowboy end up having to thwart in their small northern California town of Granite Lake! One of Colonel Harper’s men, Nelson, has double-crossed him and robbed an army depot one day early so that he and his partner Jessup, the criminal mastermind who lives in Granite Lake, can sell the weapons to some foreign fighters somewhere for a handsome profit.
Now everything is being delivered to the area so that it can be flown out of the local airport in a few days! How could local yokels like Fast Gun and Cowboy possibly hope to handle something like that?
Fast Gun didn’t get that name for his talents in the sack with his nagging girlfriend and local tavern owner, Julie. He’s a master with his sidearm and gets an opportunity to put it on display when he “assists” the DEA with a bunch of drug runners in his neck of the woods, by shooting three dead in rapid succession and following that up by using the same gun to shoot down and blow up their escape helicopter, too! (Fast Gun proves itself a classic of trashy action cinema when it turns out that his ability to shoot down a helicopter with his sidearm was actually a good use of foreshadowing!)
Fast Gun gets suspicious once Nelson arrives in town in a truck with bogus license plates. The guys who run the town tell him mind his own business. Later that night, the bad guys jump Fast Gun, beat him up, bust his hand, soak him in booze to make him appear drunk and then trash the town, prompting everyone to want Fast Gun fired.
Fast Gun does what guys like that do best – quit the force! And then hang around the sheriff’s department cleaning out his desk long enough to get in on the gigantic orgy of explosions and gunfire that bring things to a fiery close!
This is where the trust we had in Santiago really pays off. For the entire movie we’ve had to look at the absurd set that was supposed pass for Granite Lake. Not only are you not convinced that this is really a town in California instead of the Philippines, but this “town” has a single dirt road and with buildings on either side that are so fake, you’re wondering if these facades were constructed solely to be destroyed later in the film. (Hint: hell yes!)
Everything in the town is blown up! Over and over! And Fast Gun is standing on buildings mowing people down with a machine gun and jumping off buildings whenever the situation dictates!
And only after he makes sure his town is safe from the bad guys (by being totally destroyed) does he speed off into the night to kill Nelson by running him off a road down a cliff. But that was just a pit stop on his trip to the airport to kill Jessup by shooting his freaking plane right out of the sky as it takes off! (Honestly, Fast Gun is probably way too much Sheriff for a one horse, highly flammable town like Granite Lake.)
Of course anything that wasn’t engulfed in flames defied logic in the film. Like, what was the purpose of beating up Fast Gun and vandalizing the town when you’re flying the weapons out that night? Fast Gun didn’t have anything more than suspicions at that point. Was he really going to figure out what was going on at the airport in a few hours? And if you were worried he was, why not just kill him? And what was the point of injuring his hand? He couldn’t target shoot later that day, but he had no problem hefting around that machine gun that night.
Other than the final act’s carnage, Fast Gun is a thoroughly threadbare effort. The cast is replete with forgettable actors doing bad impressions of better known character actors (one can almost imagine Stacy Keach as Harper and J.T. Walsh as Jessup in a bigger budget version) while Fast Gun himself, Rick Hill spent the bulk of the movie leaving virtually no impression, at least until he was shirtless and his jacked up glazed chest glistened in the firelight of the burning town!
Dwight David Eisenhower famously said, “there is no victory at bargain basement prices.” With Fast Gun, Santiago wisely responds, “victory is blowing up every bargain basement priced sheriff’s office, tavern, general store, gas station, helicopter, car, and plane, we can lay our hands on!”
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