Blu-ray Review: Mean Guns (Special Collector’s Edition)

Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story

Albert Pyun was a director who knew how to keep the action coming even as the budget was dwindling down. You have probably seen a few of his films on late night TV or recent Blu-ray releases including The Sword and the Sorcerer (with Lee Horsley), Alien from L.A. (with Kathy Ireland), Cyborg (with John Claude Van Damme) and Captain America (the non-MCU version with Darren McGavin). He rose up as a director at Cannon Films and went on to be an indie filmmaker. His low budget films were perfect for the straight to video market of the ’80s and ’90s. Mean Guns is one of the highlights of his late ’90s movies. The film plays bigger than a 25-inch TV screen in 1997. If you have a large HDTV, Mean Guns will fill the screen with action.

The crime kingpin of Los Angeles Vincent Moon (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit‘s Ice-T) borrows the city’s new prison on the eve of its opening. He has a little private party planned. He invites 100 underworld figures that done things that have upset his criminal organization. He has a surprise for them. Three lucky people will receive $10 million. What about the other 97? They’ll be dead by dawn. He’s placed weapons around the building. They need to get to killing before time runs out. Among the killers is Lou (Highlander‘s Christopher Lambert). He didn’t expect anything that involving since he left a kid in the car in the parking lot outside the prison. Cam (Too Close For Comfort‘s Deborah Van Valkenburgh) is an accountant so she’s really not up for killing people even if they are killers. She ends up teaming up with Marcus (Michael Halsey) and “D” (Kimberly Warren) who are killers. But are they just using her as bait? Also among the shootout participants are Hoss (Better Off Dead‘s Yuji Okumoto) and Crow (Return of the Living Dead‘s Thom Mathews). What lucky three will survive the night? Will the kid Lou left in the car wander off?

Mean Guns is a well-paced ’90s action film. The danger doesn’t let up once Moon announces the theme of his little gathering. He even kickstarts the bodycount during his speech. What really gets me about the action is that the gunfights have Mambo music playing in the background. This bouncing music sticks out and works for the scenes as the thugs attempt to eliminate each other. The mambo separates this film from so many other guys with guns films from the ’90s. I appreciate that three survivors get to collect Moon’s cash. This keeps the action hopping since it’s not a traditional last man standing element. The various outlaws are able to make pacts with each other to survive. There’s plenty of intrigue as they race around the empty prison space looking for an advantage to survive and get the payday. We also get into the mystery of the girl in Lou’s car.

What’s really amazing about the film (and you’ll learn from the bonus features) is that Christopher Lambert only worked on the film for two days and Ice-T’s scenes were shot in a single day. Yet both actors are all over the action and not isolated to a scene or two. This the genius of Albert Pyun to be able to be able to get so much footage of the two actors in such a limited time span. Pyun worked fast like Roger Corman. It also helps Pyun that majority of the shoot took place in the massive jail and used minimal lighting rigs. He could grab shots all over the place without wasting time building sets and moving lots of lights. This is my top three Lambert films along with Highlander and Subway. Albert Pyun was at the top of his game as he followed the killers loose in the prison. Mean Guns is a prime low budget action film that plays like the best of studio shoot ’em ups from the ’90s.

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The Video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the vast emptiness of the prison location. The Audio is 2.0 Stereo LPCM. You’ll hear bullets echoing all over the prison. The subtitles are in English, Spanish and French.

Audio Commentary from Director Albert Pyun is a great thing since he passed away back at the end of 2022. He was going to do a film called Soul Catcher with Christopher Lambert, but producers gave him Andrew Witham’s script for Mean Guns since during the mid-90s, Tarantino-esque films were hot. He points out Ice-T only worked one day on the film, but did a lot in those 14 hours. He gets into how they discovered the new and empty prison.

Introduction by Director Albert Pyun (00:39) has him thanking people for bringing Mean Guns to Blu-ray. He feels it’s one of his best and smoothest.

Interview with Producer Gary Schmoeller (28:59) has him explain how he came out to Los Angeles to run a teleprompter company, found himself unemployed and took extension classes on filmmaking. He was hired to be a Production assistant to be a manager on Society. Because he had a computer program on how to breakdown the production, the producer moved him up to production manager (but at the PA pay). He eventually hooked up with Albert Pyun through a contract to make 3 productions back to back for Trimark. He was brought on to be the line producer to watch the money for the production company. He worked on 15 movies in 5 years with Pyun. He gets into how the Los Angeles jail sat empty for two years and Albert made three movies in the place. He talks about the price they paid Christopher Lambert.

Interview with Executive Producer Paul Rosenblum (23:41) has him talk about working on a film for Roger Corman and going over to meet Albert Pyun at Cannon Films to get a job as a personal assistant gig. They made Dangerously Close. He ended up working with Martha Coolidge and Bud Yorkin. He stayed in touch with Pyun and they put together a low budget film company. He gets into how the script came from a guy who worked for Tarantino. They budget was $3 million and $2 million went to the actors. They saved on a production budget because that really was a prison that hadn’t opened yet in Los Angeles. Mean Guns was a major success for the company.

Interview with Composer Anthony Riparetti (18:31) has him talk about working with Albert Pyun starting in 1985. He took a call from Albert and ended up creating the score to Radioactive Dreams. He talks about how helpful it was to work with Albert. He gets into the Mambo element that worked with the action. Besides the score, he did the audio mixing. Riparetti gets how Albert “borrowed film” while shooting Captain America. He gets into working with Albert

Trailer Gallery features films made by Albert Pyun including Mean Guns, Blast, Crazy Six, Nemesis, Nemesis 2 & Nemesis 3.

Collectible Mini-Poster is suitable for framing.

Slipcover (First Pressing Only)

MVD Rewind Collection presents Mean Guns (Limited Edition). Directed by Albert Pyun. Screenplay by Andrew Witham. Starring Christopher Lambert, Ice-T, Michael Halsey, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Tina Cote, Yuji Okumoto, Thom Mathews & Kimberly Warren. Running Time: Rating Not Rated. Release Date: April 9, 2024.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.