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Film / Mean Guns

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Mean Guns is a 1997 action film starring Christopher Lambert and Ice-T as Vincent Moon, a charismatic crime lord whose syndicate has just built a new prison. The day before its opening, he brings together 100 people who have betrayed the syndicate, dumps weapons and ammo on them, and gives them six hours to fight it out in the prison before his men move in and kill everyone. The last three survivors will walk out with their lives and split $10 million.

Directed by Albert Pyun, this little movie gained a cult following (especially in USA, Russia and Ukraine) for its unusual style and storytelling as well as its multi-layered plot.

Mean Guns provides examples of:

  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: The last three survivors get to live and split $10 million; all the others end up dead. However, when it's actually down to three people, Vincent Moon reveals that he really only intended there to be one survivor all along: himself.
  • Accidental Child-Killer Backstory: Lou, a retired hitman, quit the mob after a botched hit where he accidentally shot a little boy. It was this mistake that led him to partake in the film's main event, a free-for-all shootout where a hundred killers will hunt down and execute each other.
  • Anti-Villain: Marcus. And Lou for some fans.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: After Vincent Moon explains the rules of the Game to the condemned, he opens the floor for questions. He immediately kills one guy who mouths off, then gets this bonehead inquiry from another one:
    Criminal: What if we don't wanna play?
    Vincent: [shoots him] THEN DON'T! ANY OTHER QUESTIONS?!
  • Badass Longcoat: Lou, Marcus and D. Some of the awesome-looking extras also wear coats.
  • Bantering Baddie Buddies:
    • Crow and Hoss. Best friends and gangsters who are constantly trading wisecracks as they navigate the prison, killing other criminals left and right.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Vincent Moon, while killing one of the mobsters just to prove to himself that he still can do this.
  • Combat Pragmatist: In a Deadly Game involving a prison full of killers, they'll use any means to win.
  • Cult Soundtrack: Heavy on mambo, especially songs by Perez Prado. EVERY song in this movie is awesome, so for fans it's a tragedy that there was no soundtrack CD released until a limited release in 2012.
  • Deadly Game: The entire premise of the film.
  • Death by Materialism: Barbie survives the mass slaughter for a very long time by using her looks to her advantage, but becomes just another victim when she opens a booby-trapped briefcase that she believes to hold the cash.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Lou, Marcus, Moon and Bob.
  • Enemy Mine: After the initial round of killing in the Deadly Game and they all disperse, many criminals assemble into large groups for strength in numbers. Only the last three survivors are allowed to walk out of the building, so it stands to reason that they were intending to turn on each other after dealing with everyone else. It's also openly discussed when Lou, Marcus, D, and Cam team-up; inevitably, one of them will have to bite it. Cam is the only survivor of the four.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Moon is a cold-blooded killer and even he finds Lou's methods of killing people pretty disturbing. The reason why Moon allowed him to enter the Game of his own free will is because Lou has actually become a liability to the Syndicate because of it.
  • Faux Action Girl:
    • Cam, an accountant who was put into the game after she was caught trying to pass evidence of the syndicate's crimes to the authorities. She tries to kill, but fails, though she's the only one of the four main characters who survives in the end.
    • Yet another is Barbie, who kills some people but very unprofessionally, though she's much better with it near the end of the movie.
  • Flash Back: Some are shown, though as they're from drug-abusing Lou it's hard to tell what they mean.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: The movie has no clear good or bad guys. The people are just killers who'd stop at nothing to win the contest and get the briefcase. The closest genuinely good person happens to be Cam.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Lou garrotes D so fast that if you blink, you won't even know how she died.
  • Groin Attack: When the participants are all given guns and weapons for the first time and must fight amongst each other for equipment, D and a nameless rando both makes a grab for a pistol. D managed to claim the gun by kicking the other guy down there.
  • Gun Porn: Not so much because mostly they use Desert Eagle and Beretta 92F pistols, but there are different versions and some other guns too.
  • Guns Akimbo: Lou, Crow and Hoss, as well as Bob, both with pistols and with shotguns.
  • Heroic Bloodshed: The film pays homage to Hong Kong-style gunplay films with shootouts, over-the-top action scenes, numerous characters using Guns Akimbo, and so on.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Christopher Lambert gives us a rare example of this in his filmography as Lou, one of the movie heroes. He joined up specifically so that he could engage in Hunting the Most Dangerous Game, but his love of violence is played up to make him crazy awesome.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Lou and Marcus.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Very close, especially with more professional killers like Lou, Hoss and Crow hunting down others.
  • Ignore the Fanservice: Crow is the only gangster who seems perfectly cognizant that Barbie is a liability who will turn a gun on them the first chance she gets, only letting her tag along with him and Hoss because they can use her as bait. His partner is not as wise.
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed
  • Leave No Survivors: Marcus brings it up at the end of the movie, hinting that the syndicate doesn't want anyone to survive this game - not even Moon. By the end, there are only two characters left standing, neither of whom actually participated in the bloodshed.
  • Loophole Abuse: Crow and Hoss decide that they're going to be the only two people left standing at the end. Hoss actually wonders if that's against the rules, since Moon mentioned that the reward will be split among the three last survivors. However, as Crow points out, he didn't say there couldn't be fewer than three.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Hoss growing a heart and becoming overprotective of Barbie is what got him and Crow killed. Extra stupid bonus points for trying to protect a woman he only knew for a few hours tops and knew full well to be a killer.
  • MacGuffin: What crime committed by The Syndicate do photos sent to Cam by Bob depict?
  • Made of Explodium: Unusual among Albert Pyun's movies; it's subverted when Marcus rigs a bomb into a lookalike for the prize-money briefcases. It's just powerful enough to blow the top of Barbie's head off when she opens it.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Deconstructed with Barbie. She's a relatively harmless woman who knows she's sexy, and she knows all the men around her are too stupid to do the smart thing and just shoot her, so she distracts/teases them with her sexiness and turns into a Manipulative Bitch who will say and do anything to please the men around her. And then she'll stab them in the back or escape the first chance she gets.
  • Mutual Kill: When Lou is mortally wounded at the end, Marcus walks up to him. They turn their guns on each other and agree to finish it.
  • Offing the Mouth:
    • After Moon finishes his monologue clearly explaining the situation to the criminals, a biker guy in the back complains that he's "not making any sense", so Moon immediately shoots him to prove he's not kidding.
    • At the start of the film, he kills the commissioner for checkmating him in a chess game and gloating over it.
  • Only Sane Man: Cam is the least amoral of the contestants and was the only one to never kill anyone. She's also genuinely disturbed over the concept of Moon's game.
  • Pants-Positive Safety: Characters will often stash guns down their pants, just because it looks stylish.
  • Papa Wolf: Lou. Deconstructed as it's one of the reasons why The Syndicate wants Lou dead, outside of being Ax-Crazy, and Marcus even uses this trope to throw Lou off his game by lying about killing his daughter.
  • Pet the Dog: Moon takes time out from watching the other criminals to visit Lou's daughter in the parking lot and sharing a few words with her.
  • Race Against the Clock: Vincent Moon gives the hundred people locked in the prison six hours to kill each other. If there are more than three survivors beyond that point, he'll send in his men to wipe everyone out.
  • Redemption Equals Death: "Redemption time, people! Time for some good old-fashioned redemption."
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Cam is approached by a police detective she believes she can trust with incriminating evidence about the Syndicate she was unwittingly laundering money for. It turns out that he's a Dirty Cop when he immediately delivers her to Marcus, one of the Syndicate's chief enforcers. However, when he starts demanding a huge sum of money for his services, Marcus just shoots him for being a rat.
  • Scary Black Man: Ironically nicknamed Blondie. In fact there are two of them among random thugs and it seems that another appears just to substitute for Blondie's actor (both of them are one-eyed).
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • Several criminals don't take heed of Moon's warning that the perimeter is being guarded and try to escape the prison rather than fight it out, even ignoring the pile of bodies already lying next to the gate. They're all taken out by snipers before they can cross the fence.
    • D decides to go it alone after butting heads with Lou too many times and suddenly realizing that the main characters' plan to draw every bad guy to them is suicidal. She doesn't last long, being garotted by Lou himself.
    • Also happens to Ricky earlier who fails spectacularly.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Characters who get a hold of shotguns instantly gain an advantage in gunfights. Lou in particular, wielding a shotgun, gets to mow down around several mooks in quick succession.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Many scenes of killings and violent shoot-outs or melee fights are accompanied by delightful mambo music.
  • Smart People Play Chess: After setting the stage for all the enemies of the Syndicate to kill each other, Vincent Moon retires to a room so he can monitor their progress. He's often seen hovering over a vintage chess board to portray him as some sort of Diabolical Mastermind, though we never actually see him play it.
  • Smug Snake: D. Lou calls her out on it multiple times.
    Lou: "Like always, hot air. All talk, no walk."
  • The Stoic: D and Marcus.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Vincent Moon has eyes throughout the prison by looking through the security camera feeds, but the action is often shown from implausible angles.
  • The Syndicate: The city is run by a criminal conspiracy which is actually called "The Syndicate". Although we don't see much of its operations, it has enough influence to build a maximum-security prison and then use it as a killing arena a day before it is to be handed over to the authorities.
  • Thou Shall Not Kill: Cam is the only one of the contestants that is hesitant in killing another human being. She survives the entire game without killing anyone, as she's being protected by Marcus.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Torn apart as both Cam and Marcus agree that Lou's Pay Evil unto Evil tendencies are still wrong, regardless of his motivations behind it.
  • We All Die Someday: At the end, when only four people are still alive, Vincent Moon opens a briefcase full of guns for a final shoot-out, admitting that There Can Be Only One. When Marcus asks if they're all marked for death, Moon admits that they are—whoever survives, s/he'll be disposed of at some point down the line as well, including Moon himself, so why not go out in style?
  • Worthy Opponent: What Lou sees Marcus as. If whether or not the feeling is mutual is up to the viewer.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him??: A Syndicate member has Moon dead to rights but makes a speech before throwing his knife at him. This is even lampshaded by Moon. It does not end well for the Syndicate member.
    Moon: I told you—THROW the fucking knife, don't stand there and talk about it.