I watch straight to video movies because sometimes you find hidden gems that were just too rogue or misfit to get a full theatrical release. Sad to say, BY THE GUN does not fall into that category of film. It's the sort of film someone with not much talent - me, for example - would make if they had just watched the SOPRANOS boxset. It's not a pastiche or an homage but an attempt to create a tense psychological mafia movie that fails.
The movie is written by Emilio Mauro and directed by James Mottern with no real originality or quality. It stars Ben Barnes as a low-level mafiosi called Nick Tortano who wants to get made by local boss Sal Vitaglia (Harvey Keitel.) We see Nick strike up a romance with a hard-to-get girl called Ali (Leighton Meester) and get mocked by his best friend George (Slaine) for not having the balls to kill a man. The movie attempts to show the usual mafia movie conflicts - work vs lover; work vs gonzo best friend. Once we get hold of the initial set-up it's fairly easy to see where the film is going to end. There's lots of plot but no real action.
Ben Barnes doesn't have the charisma or indeed the mastery of the accent to pull this roll off. Leighton Meester is utterly miscast. I was thinking about Blake Lively who had a small role in THE TOWN and put on an accomplished accent and persona as this pretty but damaged girl. Meester doesn't come close. There's an epic fail scene about half way through the film where Nick is trying to get Ali to sleep with him and he's begging her to taunt him - it's meant to be subversive sexy and maybe could've been in the hands of, say, Gosling-Lively. But here it's just awkward.
BY THE GUN has a running time of 110 minutes and is rated R. The film went on limited release in the USA last December and has gone straight to DVD in the UK.