Gunman (1978)

Directed by
Just a really well told story
Reviewed by Simon on 2002-05-23

Gunman is a story of an assassin with a wooden leg and a heart of gold. It is the story of a police inspector with a fierce reputation and a secret to hide. It is the story of a little boy who knows his father is a hero whatever the other kids say. It's the story of a young cop who takes his job seriously. It's the story of a drunken hairdresser and his shrewish wife, and of a police snitch. IMDB mistakenly lists the movie under the name The Sister-In-Law (a different movie from the same director). To a small degree it is the story of somebody's sister-in-law too though. I find it difficult to summarise the movie beyond that, because despite the presence of some huuuge genre cliches, the movie really never feels cliched... or like a genre movie. The reason for this is the complex script and rich characterisation. The basic story is quite simple, but it's really just a back-story on which a picture of life is woven.

If I were king of the world, I would use my wealth and power to make really cool movies. Prince Chatrichalerm Yukoi is evidently a man after my own heart. He's not king of the world either, but being a member of the Thai royal family can't hurt when you want to finance a movie... and you can bet you're not going to get studio execs scribbling over your script and cutting out your best scenes either when you're a prince, I bet. Prince Chatri definitely has an advantage over me when it comes to making movies - no, not the fact that he's a prince, just that he's clearly more talented than me.

Gunman is not a flashy movie, not a 'cool' movie, just a really well told story. It's a movie that isn't in a hurry to get to its conclusion (it's 141 minutes long), because it wants to make sure that when it gets you there you really care about it. The characters are developed so richly you'll think they're members of your own family, and if you don't care for every one of them by the end then you're just mean.

I do quite firmly recommend Gunman to curious viewers, but with the reservation that the Thai DVD is... dismal. It looks like it's been taken from a print that has been in constant projection since 1983, and telecined in a bright room by a blind man. Maybe a blind man on drugs. And this is apparently the remastered version too! I was glad to have my Malata because I had to pan it, stretch it, zoom it and drop the gamma and brightness several notches before it became... well, not good but better. On the bright side, the subtitles are at least well translated

Still, you can bet there isn't going to be a pristine anamorphic transfer supervised by Sony's top technicians any time soon, and if it's a choice between good movie+bad DVD or the converse... picture ain't so big a deal, right?