Christopher Lambert Needed Quick Cash

Infamous b-movie director Albert Pyun (Cyborg and other direct-to-video schlock like a couple Kickboxer sequels) dabbles in chaotic Hong Kong-style gun violence with Mean Guns. Vaguely ripping off Tarantino’s cooler crime flicks, Mean Guns “stars” Christopher Lambert (Highlander) and Ice-T (New Jack City) in a deadly game of kill-or-be-killed with ten million dollars on the line. It’s a messy, corny actioner with both stars off their game in a disposable shoot ’em up that barely makes sense. An intriguing premise gets botched with poor direction, an inane mambo soundtrack, and terrible writing, not necessarily in that order.

A shadowy outfit known only as the Syndicate has rounded up dozens of the most ruthless criminals imaginable who have betrayed the gang, set in a new prison before its grand opening. Led by their boss Mr. Moon (Ice-T), he tells the assembly it’s every person for themselves inside the prison as the last three left standing will split a ten million dollar prize. Dumping tons of guns and ammo into the crowd, a violent brawl of killing erupts in gunfire and chaos. Lou (a dyed-blonde Christopher Lambert) is one of many players in this sick and twisted deadly game of survival.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, you can maybe see what Pyun envisioned making Mean Guns

Does this premise make sense? Not really. But it does allow viewers to follow small groups of dangerous criminals around as they shoot each other, all while spouting terribly overwrought dialogue with their numbers dwindling, not to mention some of the craziest, most inept character development found in mainstream cinema.

What sounds neat in theory turns bad quickly from the jump. Mean Guns is mostly typical Albert Pyun nonsense with even poorer craftsmanship than his earlier work in the 1980s and 1990s. The cast performances range from serviceable to terrible, including Ice-T’s overbearing crime boss and whatever Lambert is doing. They are just two players in what is honestly a sprawling ensemble of misfits and a wide range of characters, from the stupid girlfriend surviving on her feminine wiles to a tag-team combo of two friends often spouting hipster dialogue.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, you can maybe see what Pyun envisioned making Mean Guns. Rip off the hectic, fast-paced Hong Kong gun battles in explosive b-movie action while incorporating the off-beat wordplay and colorful criminals found in early Tarantino flicks. Unfortunately no one involved behind the scenes is talented enough to pull that off and what we are left with is a brain-dead b-movie with no real charm. It’s like channeling Tarantino’s self-aware film dialogue without any actual talent.

Mean Guns isn’t a highlight in either leading man’s career. It may be a highlight in Pyun’s career which isn’t saying much, who seems proud of his work on the film in the director’s commentary. There are better and far more entertaining action-packed schlock fests from the 1990s.

Video

Having been relegated to garbage-looking DVDs for Mean Guns for so many years, the 1997 b-movie finally makes its Blu-ray debut in North America in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The full uncut main feature runs 110 minutes on a BD-50. The AVC encode from MVD is fine with no real issues. However, the results aren’t pretty. Soft while lacking better Hi-Def detail, this would have been an unacceptable disc a decade ago, much less today.

MVD doesn’t provide much information about the highly pedestrian transfer and 1080p video. Cigarette burn marks indicate this is an older, unrestored transfer taken from an actual film distribution print, likely a telecine. Definition is quite scattered and not particularly impressive. Shadow delineation is suspect while the erratic cinematography regularly blows out highlights. The contrast could be stronger in many scenes.

A little debris is evident in the print though it remains wholly intact with no glaring problems. A couple shots exhibit lens distortion and warped geometry. Grain reproduction isn’t bad but really isn’t good either. I imagine a stronger transfer would tweak the color timing which is all over the map in terms of flesh-tones and gradients. Washed out flesh-tones, blown-out highlights and pervasive softness make for disappointing video.

Audio

Mean Guns’ stereo mix is heard in underwhelming and often abrasive 2.0 PCM. The outrageous sound design is almost cartoonish in its theatricality, highlighting the constant gunplay and violence. Dialogue is fairly intelligible with sufficient bass underlining the explosions and bullets.

An overriding problem in Mean Guns is a ridiculous musical soundtrack filled with almost non-stop mambo loudly playing over the action, and even choice dramatic moments; it’s one of the more bizarre and inappropriate scores I’ve come across in my reviewing days.

It should be mentioned a 5.1 surround mix for Mean Guns has popped up in a few European versions. No idea if they are legitimate or faked by distributors for more appeal.

Optional English, Spanish, and French subtitles play in a yellow font outside the scope presentation.

Extras

Mean Guns makes its North American Blu-ray debut courtesy of MVD’s Rewind Collection, clocking in as #59 under that label. Arriving in a clear case with reversible artwork, a slipcover, and mini-poster inside, the disc is coded for all regions. MVD includes several new interviews for the special features. The commentary from director Albert Pyun was recorded nearly a decade ago in 2015.

Audio Commentary from Director Albert Pyun

Introduction by Director Albert Pyun (00:39 in HD)

Interview with producer Gary Schmoeller (28:59 in HD)

Interview with executive producer Paul Rosenblum (23:41 in HD)

Interview with composer Anthony Riparetti (18:31 in HD) – New piece with the man behind the infamous mambo soundtrack.

Mean Guns Theatrical Trailer (01:28 in SD)

Blast Trailer (02:14 in SD)

Crazy Six Trailer (02:06 in SD)

Nemesis Trailer (02:25 in SD)

Nemesis 2 Trailer (01:49 in SD)

Nemesis 3 Trailer (01:49 in SD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

Mean Guns
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Notorious b-movie director Albert Pyun swings and misses with this violent tale of criminals killing each other for money

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 46 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots ripped directly from the Blu-ray:


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