The first thing I noticed about A Tale of Two Guns was a poster that toplines, Tom Berenger (Platoon, Sniper: Ultimate Kill), Judd Nelson, (The Breakfast Club, Bigfoot Wars), Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers, The 2nd), Jeff Fahey (The Long Night, The Lawnmower Man), Danny Trejo (The Legend of La Llorona, Heat) and Ed Morrone (Killing Lazarus, Waking Up Dead). I wasn’t expecting starring roles for any of the first five of them, but I wasn’t expecting Morrone to be the only one listed in the credits on IMDB. That wasn’t a good sign.
A Tale of Two Guns is also the fourth film from writer/director Justin Lee to be released in the past six months. And while I wasn’t impressed with Apache Junction and found Hunters to be absolutely abysmal his most recent release, Hellblazers was an enjoyable action/horror hybrid. While that was a matter for concern, I crossed my figures and hoped for the best.
After a shootout with a gang of outlaws known as The Cowboys leaves Marshall McTeague (Tom Berringer) injured and his deputies dead he’s forced to deputize gunman Artemis Hollinger (Ed Morrone). After telling McTeague how he managed to kill the notorious Tanner Richmond (Brian Cunningham), and taking care of another outlaw at the local saloon, he gets the job and is sent to track down Abel Cruz (Casper Van Dien), the only other survivor of the gunfight.
And that is pretty much the plot of A Tale of Two Guns. The film follows the two men as they make their way across the frontier and the various encounters they have along the way before they inevitably cross paths at the film’s end. And that’s where the film’s other marquee names pop up.
Nelson is a settler who tries to collect the reward on Cruz’s head, Trejo and Fahey turn up as a pair of outlaws he talks to in a saloon. None of them are on screen for more than a couple of minutes, and as far as I could tell their characters don’t even have names. The credits on the film itself don’t match the cast with their characters either, so apologies if I misidentified anyone as it’s been a while since I’ve seen a film with either Tom Berringer or Judd Nelson in the cast.
As a film, A Tale of Two Guns isn’t bad, although it moves at a fairly leisurely pace with no real sense of urgency to Artemis’ pursuit of Abel. McTeague makes a reference to a bloodhound early in the film, and that’s a fitting metaphor as rather than a wild chase it’s more like a tenacious pursuit with the two not coming together until the final fifteen or so minutes.
The action scenes are Ok with the exception of one where an Apache puts two arrows in Abel and then stands there watching as he pulls them out rather than shooting him again or using his tomahawk. It’s the kind of unbelievable moment that pulls you right out of the film. Beyond that, the various gunfights are well enough staged for a low-budget film like A Tale of Two Guns.
Although a western without a good saloon fight does feel a bit incomplete to me. Apart from that, my only complaint with A Tale of Two Guns is that the characters talk too much, launching into long speeches at the most inappropriate of times. I kept expecting one of them to eat a bullet mid-soliloquy.
Justin Lee has managed to make a film that, while still not in a league with the Spaghetti Westerns of the 60s and early 70s was at least entertaining enough to keep me watching. A Tale of Two Guns is currently available on VOD and Digital platforms. Shout Factory will release it on Blu-ray and DVD on March 15th.