Bad Movies Done Right – Sixgun

Every week Robert Saucedo shines a spotlight on a movie either so bad it’s good or just downright terrible. Today: Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to direct bad cowboy movies.

Westerns are one of those genres that probably shouldn’t be touched unless you have a large enough budget. Due to the sheer scope of the work it takes to film a movie set in the past, an indie western has a tough uphill battle to fight.

Sixgun does a pretty admirable job in filming a low-budget western about a retired bounty hunter who sets out for one last score. Unfortunately, director Scott Perry is never quite able to build a believable world around Sixgun. Since audiences aren’t able to effortlessly lose themselves in the story’s setting, their brains will begin to subconsciously pick at the story itself until the film is left exposed as the half-cocked western it is.

Tommy Hill stars as Tommy Hill, a perpetually drunk shell of a man. Nursing his inner demons since his wife died, Tommy’s life is in near ruins — his ranch is on the brink of foreclosure and the only friends he still has are a pair of bantering bumpkins who work for him.

Bill Wise plays Jake, the film’s requisite comic relief. A dimwitted cowpoke who dreams of sailing to Japan, Wise as Jake is a bit of a ham in the film — prone to hooting, hollering and doing his best to channel his inner Steve Zhan.

Michael Hankin plays Gunter, Jake’s verbal sparing partner and fellow handyman on Tommy’s ranch. Gunter is a pacifist German who serves as the voice of reason in the film. Hankin is hands down the best actor in the film and a treat to watch.

Together, Tommy, Jake and Gunter decide to rustle up the money needed to keep the ranch in business. To obtain the money, they’re going to take it from a gunslinger that robbed a small fortune from a local heavy.

The heavy’s name is Jake and he’s none to happy to hear his money is missing. Played by Robert Graham, Jake is one mustache away from being a mustache-twirling cartoon villain — only instead of tying damsels to railroad tracks, Jake sets up prostitution rings and murders people.

Tommy and his gang soon find themselves on the wrong end of Jake’s short fuse when they try to take the villain’s money. Throw in a hooker with a heart of gold played by Sue Rock and you have a pretty standard western — albeit shot on a super low budget.

Considering the film’s modest origins, it’s not too terrible of a movie. While the film has some pacing issues towards its climax, the plot moves relatively brisk in the film’s first half — as the story sets up the film’s stable of heroes and villains.

All of the heroes are mostly likable — countering their cowboy wardrobe with indie comedy-style banter. The plot may not be original or innovative but it’s easy to follow and should be enjoyed by its prime audience — old people who are still upset that Walker: Texas Ranger was cancelled 10 years ago.

Unfortunately, the movie does have its share of problems. Robert Graham’s bad guy is not threatening enough to keep audience’s attention throughout the film. His motivations play out too much like a stereotypical cartoon villain and Graham’s acting isn’t able to support the paper-thin character.  Without an interesting enough bad guy at the film’s core, the movie is left blowing in the wind and looking for an anchor.

Don’t expect to find it in the production design. While the movie doesn’t have too many anachronisms, Sixgun just didn’t have the budget to build a living, breathing world around the movie’s plot. With empty towns and a lack of extras, it becomes obvious that the film was shot after hours at either another western’s abandoned set or a tourist trap.

The romance between Tommy and Violet, the film’s golden-hearted prostitute, is shallow and unbelievable. There isn’t enough motivation shown for why Violet would fall in love with the weathered, alcoholic geriatric besides the fact that he’s the movie’s hero.

While the script has some charming dialogue that twists a bit of comedy into its western setting, few of the film’s actors are strong enough to inhabit the characters they are playing and the dialogue comes off as stilted more often than not.

The film feels amateurish in its execution and, perhaps unfairly, the western genre is not an environment amateur production values can thrive in.

If you are a western nut and live and breathe the genre, you may be able to enjoy Sixgun enough to look past its faults as a film. If you only have a passing interest in the genre, though, I’d recommend looking elsewhere for an entertaining film.

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