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Film / A Gun for George

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A Gun for George is a 2011 short film starring, written and directed by Matthew Holness of Garth Marenghis Darkplace fame. It explores several of the same themes as the earlier work, but in a Darker and Edgier way.

At one time, Terry Finch was a successful author of violent crime novels about "the Reprisaliser", a brutal vigilante bringing tough justice to the violent streets of Kent. But times and tastes changed, and Terry is down on his luck, reduced to living in a caravan near a power station and going door-to-door to local publishers, libraries and booksellers trying to sell old copies of his books. As a result of a hazily-defined incident in his past, Finch is not the most even-tempered of men to begin with, but when an old fan of his works leaves him a curiously bequeathment, it appears that the lines between fantasy and reality are about to blur even further for Terry...

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Available from the Film4 website.


Provides examples of:

  • The Alleged Car: Terry’s car, George, is a horrible junker, but he insists on trying to get it restored, over the protests of his mechanic. It’s in such rough shape because it was smashed up and used as an impromptu torture device by the gang that killed Terry’s brother.
  • Author Avatar: "The Reprisaliser" is clearly one of these for Terry as a wish fulfilment figure. The character as depicted on the covers of the books is based on Terry himself, apparently because the publisher couldn't afford a model to base the character on. However, it gradually becomes clear that the Reprisaliser is based on Terry in darker ways as well.
  • Berserk Button: Terry is not incredibly stable at the best of times, but damaging or destroying one of his books is a guaranteed way to set him off.
    • Also, insulting his car. Which makes sense, given it belonged to his deceased brother.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Initially, Terry comes off like a lovable loser, and some humor is taken from his situation. By the end, nobody’s laughing.
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  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The gangsters that murdered Terry’s brother tortured him by hooking a car battery into his crotch.
  • Creator Breakdown: In-universe, this is happening on several levels, but most obviously in the way that Terry clearly based the Reprisaliser on his own anti-social and violent urges and intense desire to punish "villains" particularly following the murder of his twin brother.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than Garth Marenghis Darkplace. The earlier series was a comedy, and while Marenghi was also a failing and less-than-stellar author of low-brow pulp fiction, he was altogether a more buffoonish figure. Terry Finch, conversely, is a simultaneously more pathetic and more disturbing character.
  • Deader Than Disco: In-Universe. A major theme of the film is how pulp “Men’s Action” stories of the 60’s and 70’s haven’t stood the test of time. Terry’s career has been destroyed by the genre’s disappearance.
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  • Deconstruction: Of the Author Avatar concept and of gritty “Men’s Action” pulp stories like Death Wish.
  • Defictionalisation: Finch and his novels have a fan website with excerpts, commentary and more background material.
  • Establishing Character Moment: We first encounter Terry in his caravan gluing thumb-tacks onto the keys of his typewriter as narration reads from one of his novels. Right off the bat, we learn that this man's an author, that he writes rather violent crime fiction, that he's down on his luck, and that he has some very disturbing and violent thought-processes.
  • Groin Attack: The publisher Finch tries to sell his books to notes that all of Finch's novels have an alarming tendency to feature attacks on people's testicles. This is initially played for laughs, but takes on a darker interpretation when we learn that the gangsters who murdered Terry's brother George tortured him by using a car battery to electrocute his genitals.
  • Hand Cannon: “The Reprisaliser’s” signature weapon for killing bad guys is a big snub-nosed revolver. Terry finds one in Ron’s flat at the end, with the implication that he’s about to start using it in the same way...
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: It doesn't take much to launch Terry into a violent outburst.
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": Played for Drama; “The Reprisaliser” is very obviously just Terry’s Author Avatar, designed to fulfill all of his revenge fantasies. And the ending implies the line between himself and his Mary Sue is growing thin...
  • Homage: The film is shot in a way that pays tribute to low-budget violent British crime / revenge thrillers on film and TV in the 1970s. This includes the title-cards that are used and the soundtrack music.
  • I Call It "Vera": Terry calls his car “George” and is roundly mocked for it. He calls it that because it belonged to his brother, George.
  • Imagine Spot: Terry frequently fantasises about getting even with people who piss him off throughout the story in lurid revenge fantasies framed like a grind-house movie version of one of his crime novels, complete with grainy film-stock effects.
  • No Ending: The film ends ambiguously, it not being clear exactly where Terry's heading in his life. Specifically, it ends with Terry inheriting Ron's old flat, discovering a pistol, and staring ominously out the flat's window.
  • Poke the Poodle: After a librarian pisses him off, Terry threatens to come back at night and... rearrange the books in her library to sort them by genre.
  • Old-Fashioned Copper: Ron, the dying old man who Terry reads his novels to, was apparently one of "the good cops" according to Terry. Given Terry's overall tendencies towards violent solutions to social problems, it can be reasonably inferred that Ron was one of these in his younger days.
  • Sanity Slippage: Terry’s mental state steadily degrades over the course of the film, with the implication that he’s going to become a violent Vigilante Man, just like his Author Avatar.
  • Start of Darkness: The ending heavily hints that the whole film has been the origin story of a violent, Paul Kersey-style vigilante.
  • Stylistic Suck: From the excerpts of Terry's novels we hear in narration and can see on the film's website, he apparently was not one of the literary greats even at the height of his career.
  • Two-Fisted Tales: Terry's books are all gritty pulp thrillers about a hard-nosed vigilante of the "Men's Action" genre that was quite popular back in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • Vigilante Man: The Reprisaliser. The ending implies that Terry's about to take up where his fictional counterpart left off.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Terry apparently had some level of success back in the 1970s, and apparently was able to get 658 stories published. Nowadays, the demand for his books has plummeted.
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