Westerns haven’t been sexy to Hollywood producers for a long time, but a plucky group of filmmakers is trying to change that. And they got Eric Roberts to play the devil. Six Gun Savior, directed by Kirk Murray and written by Frank Zanca, previewed to an audience of cast, crew and media on August 4 at Westwood’s historic Crest Theater. The film is a genre mash-up, combining the feel of a 1960s western with demons and the devil. Red carpet photos are at the end of this article.
The protagonist is Lane McCrae, played by Kaleo Griffith (Dark Room Theater, Reggie’s Family & Friends), who sells his soul to the devil (Eric Roberts, The Dark Knight, Expendables, Suits), in order to save his brother’s life. In return, he becomes a bounty hunter for the devil. He must hunt down rogue demons while he conducts a search for his brother’s killer, played by Grant Dillion (Asleep with the Angels, Neo Ned). His life gets more complicated when the Devil double crosses him and returns his brother (Adam LeClair, Followed, Stranger in the Doorway) as a demon.
The film begins with a prologue before the titles which establishes the fact you are entering the supernatural corner of the old west. Then, it follows Lane on his quest. Along the way we meet his not-to-be ignored girlfriend (Elizabeth Russe, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Expendables), a sidekick, played by Matthew Ziff (Martial Arts Kid, Treachery), and a “faithful Indian companion,” not Tonto, but Muna, played by Maya Tremblay (Danger. Zombies. Run., A Radio Drama Goodbye).
Casting directors, check out Maya. She’s awesome.
Memorable performances were also turned in by Lorraine Ziff (Mansion of Blood, Martial Arts Kids) as a powerful demon queen and Martin Kove (Karate Kid, Rambo II, Cagney and Lacy) as a rebellious demon known as “The Mentor.”
Six Gun Savior was enjoyable and struck just the right balance between shoot’em-up-action and situational humor. I had a few problems with some of the dialogue seeming a tad too contemporary and the complicated demon relationships were hard to follow. But you cared about the characters and how their plight was going to be resolved. It was a fun ride.
In the Q&A with the cast and crew after the film, it became obvious that there was more to this than just cranking out another film. A real love for the Western genre was revealed.
Kaleo Griffith was asked “who he was channeling” as he played the hero Lane McCrae. “I don’t think I was channeling anyone in particular,” he said, “but, I’ve certainly been influenced by all the westerns I watched as a kid. I think I saw every Clint Eastwood western he made. I loved all his work as a kid and I can still watch westerns all day.”
Grant Dillion, the bad guy, and Adam LeClair, the brother, also said they’d love to do another western. LeClair volunteered, “I went from being a totally novice rider to a solid intermediate.”
Martin Kove, the mentor, said he became part of the project when he was at a film festival and attending a party Executive Producer and Writer Frank Zanca (The Greatest American Hero: The Fan Series, Only in Paris) was hosting. “Westerns are in the very air we breathe,” Kove said. “The rejuvenation of the western must come about. Being surreal in this one is OK because that’s what the kids want to see. We can build from there.”
After the event, I spoke with director Kirk Murray, and asked him why the film took three years to make. “We started as a web series,” he explained. “When we got the investors, they said they’d put in the money if we made a feature film out of the project.” The filming then had to continue between actors and staff working other jobs.
I asked Murray if the film had distribution yet. “Not yet,” he said. “We’re looking for it, but we literally just finished the film.”
Part of the nostalgia this film inspires comes from one of its main locations, Melody Ranch. William S. Hart, Gary Cooper, Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, Bill Boyd, and John Wayne all filmed movies there. The original score by composer Charles-Henri Avelange was impressive and added to the fun.
For a look at another of this new breed of westerns, check out my review of Hot Bath an’a Stiff Drink.
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