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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Long Live Film Noir
by Betty Jo Tucker

According to Charles Pappas, author of It's a Bitter Little World: The Smartest, Toughest, Nastiest Quotes from Film Noir, cynical movies about sex, violence and money featuring losers who seek the very thing that gets them killed will probably be around for a long time. “As long as life disappoints, men and women betray each other, and what we need gets us killed, there'll always be film noir,” Pappas declares.

Which brings us to 1 in the Gun, a fascinating film noir with bizarre David Lynchian undertones. Written and directed by Rolfe Kanefsky, this intriguing movie boasts a complicated plot, mysterious characters and disturbing surprises. It wallows in situations involving seduction, robbery, madness and murder. And every time you think you’ve got things figured out, something happens to make you think again. I love it when that happens in a motion picture, don’t you?

Watching Mickey Lewis (Steven Man), the main character, go deeper and deeper into film noir territory makes us wonder if he has any idea what danger he’s in. Mickey, a struggling artist, becomes involved with sexy Katrina (Katherine Randolph), who is married to a wealthy but abusive spouse (Steven Bauer). The plans devised to remedy this situation are illegal, of course, and -- according to Murphy’s Law -- what can go wrong does go wrong.

I admire the way filmmaker Kanefsky also teases us with a couple of amusing scenes that showcase Man’s subtle comic flair. “I realized early on that I needed to be very careful since I did not want this to be a parody or spoof of film noir,” Kanefsky says. Evidently, he spent time watching movies like Body Heat, Double Indemnity, Dead Reckoning, Detour and Out of the Past before writing 1 in the Gun, so he succeeded in capturing “the dark sense of humor many of those films possess.” Kanefsky also admits being a great fan of Alfred Hitchcock and his “suspenseful yet still surprisingly comical vision to his thrillers.”

As Mickey, Man projects just the right combination of toughness and innocence here. Other standouts in the cast are Randolph, who’s about as seductive as film allows, and Bauer, who brings gravitas to the role of a rich husband. Colorful supporting characters, portrayed by fine actors like Robert Davi and James Russo, add to the movie’s weird atmosphere and also deserve recognition. 

Although parts of 1 in the Gun may be too raunchy for some viewers, the movie is never boring. It’s definitely a must-see for film noir fans.

(From MTI Home Video; not rated by MPAA.)

Listen to director Rolfe Kanefsky and producer Esther Goodstein discuss 1 in the Gun by clicking here now.

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