Underground gun duels to the death in South America

Ken Sanzel’s Blunt Force Trauma is a better film than its generic name implies. With the decline of the Western from modern cinema, the exciting two-man gun duel has faded from the screen. The nervous anticipation and thrill before two men pull their triggers has always been a perfect cinematic moment. Blunt Force Trauma is about an underground circuit in South America, a last refuge for modern gunslingers to try their hand in a duel. It stars Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) and Freida Pinto as two lost souls wandering this circuit, tempting death with every duel they participate in.

John (Ryan Kwanten) is searching for the legendary Zorringer (Mickey Rourke) as he travels underground gun duels across South America. Reputed to be the fastest gun alive, Zorringer is a hard man to track down. John is a talented young shooter in this illegal sport. Two duelists face each other in opposing circles, each wearing no more protection than Kevlar vests. A referee tosses a coin or object up in the air. When it lands the fastest draw usually wins the contest between the two duelists.


Theoretically the vests will save them from death but these are unlicensed, illegal showdowns. Things are bound to go wrong some of the time. While the vests usually stop the bullets, the sheer force of impact often does internal body damage.

… a smart, contemplative thriller about two people losing themselves in South America as they struggle to deal with their feelings.

John catches the eye of Colt (Freida Pinto), the rare woman taking part in these duels. Colt is looking for her brother’s killer, a duelist that cheated in a contest and killed her brother in the process. Colt thinks John can lead her to her brother’s killer. Colt and John buddy up in this lonely world, moving from town to town as both are searching for someone. John wants to find his Moby Dick, Zorringer, and challenge him to one final duel without vests. Colt searches for vengeance on her brother’s killer. Can they discover happiness together or will their foolish quests drive them apart?


Expecting a generic action movie with a title like Blunt Force Trauma, what I got was a smart, contemplative thriller about two people losing themselves in South America as they struggle to deal with their feelings. Both John and Colt develop into strong characters with different goals. John isn’t your stereotypical action hero. Bored by his life selling computers, John found himself thirsting for the edge provided by risking your life over and over in high-stakes gun duels. He’s doing it for the thrill and excitement. Colt is a far different case. She got sucked into this life when her brother was killed in a duel. Both are excellent shooters but different things drive them to pursue this deadly sport. Pinto is excellent as Colt. She plays the female sharpshooter with a memorable passion and toughness.

Blunt Force Trauma is a slick action thriller with surprising depth and characterization. Led by two strong performances from its stars, Ryan Kwanten and Freida Pinto, the thriller beats with a raw intensity exploring underground gun duels. I don’t know if these gun duels actually exist but Blunt Force Trauma pushes an intriguing premise for them. Writer and director Ken Sanzel has crafted an interesting thriller that captures the core essence of what it means to face life and death in a duel.

Movie ★★★★☆


The unrated Blunt Force Trauma runs 96 minutes and is distributed by Alchemy on home video. It contains graphic violence, nudity and sexual content.

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