Men with Guns (1997)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Adventure Drama, Political Drama  |   Release Date - Mar 27, 1998 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 128 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Keith Phipps

Men With Guns fell victim to a surprisingly cool reception upon its release, one that suggested John Sayles' long winning streak had finally been broken. This powerful and uncompromising film simply doesn't bear that notion out. Maybe the muted response had more to do with the general unwillingness to acknowledge the reality of Third World violence, a topic Sayles confronts head-on here. That he chose to set the film in an unnamed Spanish-speaking country allows him to deal with generalities rather than specifics and frees Men With Guns from the overt didacticism from which it might otherwise have suffered. In a performance of tremendous gravity, Frederic Luppi conveys the confusion of a man whose long-accepted notions of good and evil fall victim to the grim scenes he encounters, recognizing that whatever ideology they profess, it is a far more simplistic approach to politics that drives the competing bands of armed men. Ever humane, Sayles offers glimmers of hope, but overall the film remains as grim as its subject matter. This grimness may have been the source of some viewers' complaints, but it would have done a disservice to the subject to portray it otherwise.