American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
The opening sequence of "Gunmen" begins with a shot of a sweaty, unshaven face with a fly crawling upon it. Not long after, a prisoner is astonished when the wall of his cell is blown away, and he is beckoned to freedom by a man standing outside. Both of these visuals are recycled from famous spaghetti Westerns.
This is a bad omen. Most directors have at least one or two original ideas when they start a film, and they tend to put them right at the beginning, as audience-grabbers. When Deran Sarafian borrows well-known ideas from famous movies right at the get-go, it doesn't bode well for what's to follow. Nor should it.
"Gunmen" is a movie without plan, inspiration or originality - and to that list I would add coherence, except that I am not sure this movie would place much value on a plot that hangs together. The film's ambitions are simple: to give us a lot of action, a lot of violence, a few ironic lines of dialogue, and some very familiar characters. To call the characters in "Gunmen" cliches would be a kindness; my notion is that they've been wandering in action-pic cyberspace for years, occasionally surfacing in our dimension as B-movie heroes.
The movie stars Christopher Lambert (he eats the fly in the opening scene) and Mario Van Peebles, in a murky tale of drugs and revenge south of the border. Van Peebles plays Cole, a New York-based drug enforcement agent, who is in an unnamed South American country to mop up illegal drug profits and avenge his father's death. Lambert plays Servigo, a drug runner who may have information that can help him.