A routine mafia thriller starring Ben Barnes and Harvey Keitel
By The Gun is your standard mafia crime thriller, a decent direct-to-video film that does not have aspirations beyond telling its story. Featuring names like Harvey Keitel and Leighton Meester in smaller character roles, actor Ben Barnes has to carry the movie on his own as its central protagonist. Despite a quietly intense performance from Barnes, the film is still rather lackluster.
Nick Tortano (Ben Barnes) is a young, ambitious criminal. Nick is hoping the mafia will soon make him a Made Man. Groomed by an older mobster in Sal (Harvey Keitel), Nick has to grudgingly accept the abuse heaped on him by a current mafia veteran, Tony. Nick’s close friend is George (Slaine), a sociopath that has no interest in joining the mafia despite being a criminal himself. For a rapper by trade, Slaine acquits himself quite well in the role as a violent thug.
Forced to make an apology to Tony for a transgression made by one of his relatives, Nick meets Tony’s daughter. Ali (Leighton Meester) has nothing to do with her father’s mob business, working a bartending job. It goes without saying that Nick eventually starts dating Ali in secret. By The Gun is rather predictable in its plot developments.
As the movie lurches forward, we learn Nick is estranged from his father. Turned out by his own father for being a criminal, Nick desperately wants to be a part of something bigger by joining the mafia. The sense of family and loyalty it provides proves very tempting. Sal is a father figure to the young criminal on another level. While Nick has no problem with petty crime, he’s not the stone-cold killer his friend George proves to be when push comes to shove.
The primary failing in By The Gun is that everyone is a stock character
The plot turns predictably violent in this generic gangster conflict when something happens that shatters Nick’s precarious world. Things go wrong when George tortures a rival mafia member, forcing Nick to chose sides. Nick faces a tough decision that could cost everyone he loves dearly.
By The Gun is competently made genre entertainment. Director James Mottern pulls solid performances out of his mostly veteran cast. Do not be fooled by their names above the title – Harvey Keitel and Leighton Meester play small roles. The primary failing in By The Gun is that everyone is a stock character, a pale shade of more memorable figures from movies such as Goodfellas and Donnie Brasco. Ben Barnes is asked to carry the film on his back as Nick, a challenge he largely meets. Sadly, the solid acting does not make up for its generic script. This is a standard mafia tale, one which fans of crime thrillers will have seen many times before.
Millennium Entertainment delivers a respectable, satisfactory Blu-ray presentation. By The Gun features ordinary, workman-like cinematography from Jimmy Lindsey, an appropriate choice for the gritty movie. The main feature runs 100 minutes, encoded in AVC at 29.95 Mbps. This Blu-ray fully replicates the film’s digital intermediate in a transparent manner, revealing decent clarity and fairly typical picture quality for a new release. It is framed in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio.
The color-timing has not been overly saturated with a flat palette containing neutral flesh-tones. The drama contains okay resolution with its medium depth and average focus avoids intense bursts of extreme detail. This kind of video quality would have been more impressive a few years ago but has become merely satisfactory recently. The transfer shows no overt signs of damaging manipulation or processing. Since the drama does not rely on VFX, there is a notable lack of aliasing and ringing.
Less impressive is the limited 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. For a crime thriller, less action occurs than one might expect. By The Gun is more comfortable when being a dialogue-driven drama. The few heavy action scenes lack sonic impact. The independent production has okay fidelity, though dialogue is occasionally soft. The main audio soundstage is confined to the front channels, allowing ambient musical support for the rear channels.
A lossy 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack has also been included. Optional English SDH and Spanish subs display in a white font which remain inside the scope framing at all moments.
The deleted scenes are mostly extra filler but the included commentary is a fine effort. The four SD trailers precede the main menu and are skippable.
Audio Commentary – Director James Mottern and writer/producer Emilio Mauro carry this discussion. Actor Ben Barnes is also in it, though he seems reticent to join the discussion at times. A lot of the information provided is standard behind the scenes content, from their creative choices to praising other cast and crew. It is a relaxed discussion that comes off as a bit perfunctory.
Deleted Scenes (8 scenes in upscaled HD: 00:59, 01:50, 00:26, 00:40, 00:46, 00:34, 03:27, 01:15) – Somewhat frustrating to navigate since there is no play-all button for them. Most are character bits filling out the relationship between George and Nick. These scenes still include their timecodes, apparently they were in an earlier rough cut of the film.
By The Gun trailer (01:51 in HD)
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.