As I watched 9 Bullets the plot seemed overly familiar, it wasn’t billed as a remake of anything but it seemed very familiar. Then it hit me, Gloria, a film John Cassavetes made in 1980, and remade by Sidney Lumet in 1999. Both involve a tough woman who has to go on the run with a young boy wanted by the mobsters who killed his parents. In Gloria he has a book with incriminating information, in this film, it’s a laptop. In both films, the mob boss is her ex and as a name, Gypsy isn’t that far from Gloria either.
I wasn’t surprised to see that it was one of a stew of films writer/director Gigi Gaston (Rip it Off, Fatal Memory) cited as an influence on 9 Bullets. And the fact it had so many influences may be part of the film’s problem.
Gypsy (Lena Headey, Dredd, Game of Thrones) is a burlesque dancer with an interesting past. So interesting that she’s retiring to write a book about it. Coming home from her farewell performance she gets a frantic call from a friend who needs her to intercede for them with Jack (Sam Worthington, The Shack, The Titan), he’s the local mob boss and Gypsy’s ex. Before she can Sam’s goons kill him and his wife as she listens helplessly. And while their son Sam (Dean Scott Vazquez, In the Heights) watches.
Could you talk about some of the films that influenced you?
Gaston: So many would fill 10 pages. Take a bit of Paper Moon, a dash of Bonnie and Clyde with a kid, sprinkle a touch of A Perfect World, with a hint of Gloria, and you will find 9 Bullets.Gigi Gaston in 9 Bullets’ press kit.
She comes home to find the terrified kid and his pet chihuahua hiding in her shower. She tries putting him on a bus to a relative that doesn’t want him. But that ends up becoming a cross-country car trip when Sam’s goons show up at the bus station.
The biggest problem with 9 Bullets is that its leads’ journey isn’t the only thing that’s all over the map. It shifts gears and tone from gritty thriller to road movie to rom-com antics as Jack’s current girlfriend Lisa (Emma Holzer, The Cleansing Hour, The Blackcoat’s Daughter) swears revenge after Gypsy and Jack end up back in bed together.
Toss in a pair of bumbling but lethal redneck hitmen and encounters with one of Gypsy’s professors (Barbara Hershey, The Entity, The Manor) and stripper (La La Anthony, Holiday Rush) and you have a film that goes from a young kid watching his parents die to jokes about those killers and his protector bedding their boss knowing what he’s done.
And as an action thriller, which is how it’s being marketed, 9 Bullets leaves a lot to be desired. The opening murders were well-staged but almost nothing happens beyond Jack threatening to shoot a dog for much of the film. Sam’s Bitcoin trading, he’s a genius with cryptocurrencies, generates more suspense than the film’s gangsters ever do.
Maybe if Gaston hadn’t kept undercutting potentially tense moments with jokes or tried to stuff too many influences and ideas into what should have been a simple thriller 9 Bullets might have been tolerable. Instead, I was ready to check out by halfway through and only finished because I was reviewing it. And given the film’s ending, I might have been better off if I had. I was hoping for a nice little thriller with some good performances to kill the night. Instead, I got a film that makes Avatar Sam Worthington’s second-worst film.