In the mid ’90s, mainstream cinema and the direct-to-video market alike both experienced a significant change in their product — due largely in part to the worldwide success of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, a movie that dared to toss out the traditional formula of ABC filmmaking in favor of a more nonlinear style of storytelling. Granted, any well-read (or well-viewed) disciple of film knows that Tarantino did not solely create the genre of hip features. There were numerous avant-garde artists before him — most of whom did it far better than he could have ever hoped to, but whose methods of moviemaking did not become as hugely popular in the fact that they simply weren’t as popular.
However, once Pulp Fiction hit theaters, it finally became “cool” to be hip like that. As a projectionist-turned-video-store-manager during the latter half of the ’90s, I saw one crappy rip-off after another infiltrate big screens and small ones everywhere — but mostly on the home video format. After all, it was a lot cheaper (and profitable) for distributors to just pick up some independently produced crapfest somebody else made a few years before that had more than likely been shelved because they were so awful and sell it to video stores at the outrageous retail cost videocassettes carried back then. Once DVD came around, the market was flooded further with even more cheapo crap — but by then, there were other successful movies for indie producers and distributors to capitalize on the popularity of.
Now, here we are in 2013 — nearly twenty years after Pulp Fiction was first released. And guess what? It’s happening all over again. And one of the recent culprits is a barely résumé-less fellow by the name of Michael Winnick, who wrote, produced, and directed a low-budget action comedy thriller in 2011 which has recently surfaced on home video as Guns, Girls and Gambling. Yes, that is seriously the name of the feature in question, kids. And, believe me, the tale is just as original and inspired as its title.
Boasting an all “star” cast including Christian Slater, Powers Boothe, Jeff Fahey and the always contemptible Dane Cook, Winnick’s ultra-hip-by-’90s-standards assault on the senses is about as predictable as you can get when it comes to being told in a nonlinear fashion, and as unoriginally linear as it tries way too hard to keep the story alive and well by adding a new twist every five minutes. Slater heads the mostly-expendable cast off as a guy named John Smith, who finds himself in a great big heap of trouble after he enters an Elvis competition at an impressive Native American casino somewhere out in the middle of nowhere. It seems the other Elvises (or is that Elvi?) he has unwittingly joined the ranks of — as played by Gary Oldman (Elvis Elvis), Tony Cox (Little Person Elvis), Anthony Brandon Wong (Asian Elvis), and Chris Kattan (Gay Elvis) — actually came to rob the casino of a priceless Native artifact.
Yup, he went the 3000 Miles to Graceland route here, folks. And it really says a lot when you stop to realize how much better of a movie 3000 Miles to Graceland truly was once you suffer through even the first couple of minutes of Guns, Girls and Gambling. Anyway, now our antihero Mr. Smith has been placed within the crosshairs of two warring factions: the trigger-happy local Native Americans (led by Gordon Tootoosis), and the equally-deadly men who work for a power-hungry rancher (Powers Boothe, who looks like he’s just glad to be working). Meanwhile, a mysterious blonde lady clad in figure-fitting black (a slightly-talented Helena Mattsson) is going around, quoting Edgar Allan Poe before she dispatches her victims into the netherworld (she should really have been dubbed by somebody else, too, as her reciting of Poe made me twitch).