Mean Guns

USA 1996

Reviewed by Kim Newman


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

A crime syndicate has won through corruption a contract to build a high-tech prison in the middle of a US city. Before the building is turned over to the authorities, syndicate figure Vincent Moon uses it for an operation to get rid of various people who have betrayed or inconvenienced the organisation.

Cam, a female accountant about to go to the police with incriminating photographs, is seized by mysterious hitman Marcus and taken to the prison. There they find various criminals and assassins gathered. Moon announces that $10 million is hidden in the building. The last three people alive at the end of six hours will be entitled to claim it. He gives everyone guns and ammunition and retreats to watch on the closed-circuit monitors whose cameras are everywhere.

During the killing, an alliance forms between Marcus, Cam, assassin D and loose cannon Lou, who agrees to co-operate only for the prize. Everyone else gets killed, and Lou - whose daughter Lucy is waiting outside - murders D. Marcus, Cam and Lou win the game, but really Moon intends they should all die and stages a four-way face off. Marcus outdraws Moon and then goads a dying Lou into killing him by claiming to have murdered Lucy. Cam, whom Marcus has wounded to save her from the final shoot-out, leaves the prison with the money and adopts Lucy.


Since his directorial debut The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982) Albert Pyun has become one of the most prolific film-makers in the world, cranking out three or four direct-to-video action movies a year. Some of the titles to his name which may be familiar from the ex-rental video bins are Alien from L. A., Brain Smasher... A Love Story, and Kickboxer 4 The Aggressor, among many others. Like Adrenalin Fear the Rush, his last film and his first teaming with star Christopher Lambert, Mean Guns is essentially an excuse to have a small group of characters run about in a confined area shooting at each other, much like a feature-length version of a computer kill game.

Where Adrenalin Fear the Rush suffered from ambitions that exceeded its budget, one of the pleasures of Mean Guns is that it's tailored exactly to its modest means. Setting out early on its lethal-knockout narrative premise, the film contents itself with its sleek, Alphaville-style prison (a near-future setting is assumed) and rapidly whittled-down bunch of characters. There is an interesting feint in that Lambert's loose cannon Lou, whose relationship with his small daughter Lucy (Hunter Lockwood Doughty) is never satisfactorily explained, turns out to be the secondary hero. The dramatic weight of the film, however, falls on Marcus, played by the comparatively unfamiliar Michael Halsey (last seen in 1979's The Bitch), whose creased face and gravelly British accent give the character an interesting melancholy cool.

Pyun has shot enough action scenes over the years to have become practised at making confusing battles play. Relishable moments include the upending of a couple of boxes - one of guns, the other of ammunition - into the crowd of killers, who then scramble to arm themselves and eliminate each other. The pulsing beat of mambo music, pumped through the prison throughout the game, pleasingly takes the place of the generic scores stuck on too many low-budgeters.

The snatches of dialogue between the killings have a similar non sequitur feel. One hood objects to another's profanities with, "Maybe if you used them a little less, they'd mean a little more - especially in the movies." An along-for-the-ride gun moll, who later turns the tables, is told: "Listen to me, Nipples, this ain't The Girl Scouts of Melrose Place - cute doesn't cut it all the way to the treeline." Maybe Mean Guns is ultimately most interesting as proof that anyone who makes films at the rate Pyun does will eventually turn out something watchable. Now, he should set his sights on making a film that's worth seeing more than once.


Gary Schmoeller
Tom Karnowski
Andrew Witham
Director of Photography
George Mooradian
Ken Morrisey
Tony Riparetti
©Mean Guns, Inc
Production Companies
Filmwerks presents a Karnowski/Schmoeller production
Executive Producer
Paul Rosenblum
Associate Producers
Darren B. Turbow
Andrew Witham
Unit Production Manager
Tom Karnowski
Rick DeLena
Assistant Directors
Tom Karnowski
Sazzy Calhoun
Script Supervisor
Teri Blythe
Teri Blythe
Digital Visual Effects
Engram Digital
Special Effects
Guy Faria
Teeth for Ice-T:
Allen Barlow
Costume Designer
Shelly Boies
Wardrobe Supervisor
Houston Sams
Key Make-up/Hair
Ani Plotkin
F-Stop, Inc
Filmwerks Logo
"Adios" by Enric Madriguera; "Jose" by Perez Prado; "Salsipuedes" by Antony Riparetti, Deric Lynch; "Land of Illusions", "Chupacabra" by Antony Riparetti, Steve Le Gossick; "Loco" by Antony Riparetti, Paul Edwards, Roberto Amaral; "Esta noche sin ti", "Mambo Mambo", "La hora de la verdad" by Antony Riparetti, Roberto Amaral, Steve Le Gossick
Audio Co-ordinator
Thomas E. Miller
Production Sound Mixer
Lee Howell
Supervising Sound Editor
Patrick M. Griffith
Dialogue Editor
Jeff Marr
Sound Effects Editors
Paul N.J. Ottosson

John Kohlbrenner
Lisa Hannan
Debby Van Poucke
Eriq P. Jaffe
C.J. Jones
Voice Artists:
Custom Looping
Thomas Brunelle
June Christopher
Arnold Turner
Rodney Saulsberry
Eddie Frierson
Jeff Marr
Gretchen Thoma
Bino Espinoza
Stunt Co-ordinators
Paul Eliopoulos
Garret Warren
Christopher Lambert
Vincent Moon
Michael Halsey
Deborah Van Valkenburgh
Tina Coté
Yuji Okumoto
Thom Mathews
Kimberly Warren
Hunter Lockwood Doughty
Little Lucy
Jerry Rector
James Wellington
Hoke Howell
Commissioner Guildner
James Mathers
Jerry Mantegna
Milan Nicksic
Jahi J.J. Zuri
Jim Koehler
Robert Lennon
John Machado
Moss Mossberg
Jill Pierce
mambo woman
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
8,645 feet
96 minutes 9 seconds
Colour by FotoKem/Fototronics
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011