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"MEN WITH GUNS"
(1998) (Federico Luppi, Damian Delgado) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Moderate Heavy Moderate Heavy
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None None None Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Minor None Minor Mild *Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: An older doctor sets out on a journey in hopes of finding out what happened to the former students he trained to help the poor tribal people of the mountainous jungles of Latin America.
PLOT:
Dr. Humberto Fuentes (FEDERICO LUPPI) is a doctor who for years trained others to provide medical assistance to native Indian tribes living in the jungles of Latin America. Needing a vacation, and after discovering that one of his students no longer practices medicine, he decides to head into the mountainous jungles in search of his other former students. Despite his questionable health and the advice of others not to go, Fuentes travels to the first poor village. There he finds that no one will talk to him except Conejo, (DAN RIVERA GONZÁLEZ), a parentless boy who offers to help the doctor find his students in exchange for money and food.

Fuentes agrees and they make their way from one village to the next, but the doctor is disheartened to learn that government soldiers or the guerillas they continually fight have killed many of his students. Along the way, Fuentes and Conejo are robbed and essentially kidnaped by Domingo (DAMIÁN DELGADO), a military deserter, who continues on with them for fear of his former comrades discovering him alone, but also because he has nowhere else to go.

As Fuentes learns of the many atrocities committed by both the soldiers and guerillas -- the men with guns -- he gives a ride to Padre Portillo (DAMIÁN ALCÁZAR), a wayward and disenchanted former priest, Graciela (TANIA CRUZ), a mute girl, and has several encounters with Andrew (MANDY PATINKIN) and Harriet (KATHRYN GRODY), two adventurous American tourists who are oblivious to the dangers surrounding them. Learning that nearly all of his students are dead, Fuentes and the others head off in search of Cerca del Cielo, a hidden and perhaps mythological refuge village where it's believed one of his last students may live.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
It's not very likely considering the subject matter and the foreign dialogue.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For language and some violent images.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • FEDERICO LUPPI plays a caring doctor who sets out to discover what happened to his many students he trained to care for the poor people of his country.
  • DAMIAN DELGADO plays an army deserter who robs the doctor and Conejo and essentially takes them hostage. We later learn of the atrocities he witnessed and had to perform as a soldier, both of which led to his current behavior.
  • DAN RIVERA GONZALEZ plays a young parentless boy (the product of a rape) who curses some, but is otherwise necessarily resourceful to survive.
  • DAMIAN ALCAZAR plays a former priest who gave up religion after being confronted with too many atrocities.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
    Two-time Oscar nominee John Sayles is the dream ideal of every independent filmmaker in the world. Writing, directing and editing his own pictures, he always has "final cut" on them, and not until they're finished does he look for a distribution partner. While his films haven't been huge financial successes (1996's "Lone Star," at $13 million, is his most profitable to date), many have made back their money, and most are favorites among critics and moviegoers who like the fact that no Hollywood executives meddled with the finished product.

    Of course, having no one to "look over your shoulder" means an auteur may be too deeply immersed in that product, resulting in him or her being "blind" about whether the film is any good or not. Fortunately for Sayles ("Matewan," "Eight Men Out"), this turns out to be a good film, although it's not quite up to reaching the status of great.

    A subtitled film set somewhere in Latin America, featuring a relatively unknown cast that speaks in various languages, definitely has its work cut out for it right from the get-go. Although the title, "Men With Guns," makes this sound like the latest film from Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez, the film is anything but that. While guns have some play in the story, it's more about a man's quest to ease his ignorance-based guilt of unknowingly sending his former students to their untimely deaths.

    Thus, the film's obviously a character-driven tale, and Sayles has found some good performers to drive it forward. Argentinian actor Federico Luppi ("Cronos," "A Place In The World") is perfect in his role playing the older doctor whose desire to leave a medical legacy behind him leads to ever increasing levels of guilt. Not only is he completely believable, but Luppi also creates an entirely sympathetic character who allows us to simultaneously experience the shock and sadness of what he's been ignorant about for all of his life. Sayles also did a good job in casting the other major parts, including Damian Delgado as the nervous army deserter, Dan Rivera Gonzalez as the resourceful boy, and Damian Alcazar who is completely believable as the wayward priest.

    In fact, it's a story told by that character that provides the movie with its most mesmerizing scene. Retelling a tale about a "ghost" (what he now calls himself for aimlessly wandering the dirt highways), the former priest's story about a group of villagers having to vote on whether the good of the many outweighs the good of the few is as haunting as it is memorable. Symbolically tying in with a duo of adventurous American tourists who are interested in ancient, ritualistic sacrifices (and played by real life husband and wife Mandy Patinkin and Kathryn Grody who are mainly used as some much needed comic relief), this sacrifice scene is disturbingly moving as several villagers agree to be sacrificed for the "good" of the others.

    Much of the movie comes off that way, as Sayles delivers decent short sequences (Fuentes asking the former priest if ignorance of sending his students to their deaths is a sin, etc...), but doesn't always perfectly thread them together to make a completely satisfying story. Occasionally, the narrative seems artificially constructed, as if Sayles has suddenly decided it's time to pick up another character who will relate or introduce a new story or theme to continue the main plot.

    While not horribly obstructive, such moments often don't feel completely homogenous with the rest of the movie. Additionally, it doesn't help that as we make this journey with the main character and his companions, the trip continuously gets darker and more somber and definitely heads in the wrong direction of becoming a happy, uplifting tale.

    Essentially a road movie with near mythological proportions, Sayles delivers a story of one man's quest to ease his own guilt who, in doing so, uncovers events and circumstances that open his previously shuttered eyes to the horrors that are occurring in his own "backyard." While certainly not a big crowd pleaser and occasionally suffering from a tendency to meander perhaps just a bit too much, this movie features some decent performances and several decently constructed, and moving moments. We give "Men With Guns" a 7 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Here's a quick look at the film's content. Profanity is extreme with 9 "f" words and an assortment of others (all in English subtitles). While most of the violence is described or implied, there are several violent scenes, including one that's briefly bloody. Those moments and a few others lead to some tense scenes, but nothing that's unbearable, although the story is certainly anything but happy. Although it's doubtful many kids will want to see this film, you might want to look through the content should you, or someone else in your home wish to see it.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Fuentes' daughter and her friend have drinks with dinner.
  • Fuentes has a drink.
  • Andrew and Harriet have drinks/beer in several scenes.
  • Some soldiers drink beer.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • We see that Domingo has been shot and his arm and chest are a little bloody.
  • We see several bodies in shallow graves with small bloody bullet holes in their foreheads.
  • On the urging and demands of his fellow soldiers, Domingo repeatedly stabs an already bloody man with a knife (we only see Domingo and not the actual stabbing, although we do see lots of blood on the knife and splattering onto Domingo).
  • We see a wound on a villager's leg.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Both the government soldiers and the guerillas have both as they essentially do whatever they want to the villagers (killing them, burning their villages, relocating the survivors into guarded camps, etc...). At other times they take villagers to see a mass graveyard (of massacre victims) to put fear into them, and in another scene they make some villagers decide between their collective fate and the fate of six men, including Portillo.
  • A friend of Fuentes' daughter says that the more that's done for the native Indians and the more that's given to them, the lazier they get.
  • Fuentes returns to his truck to find that someone has broken in and stolen things, and later some kids steal the hubcaps from his tires.
  • Domingo essentially takes Fuentes and Conejo hostage at gunpoint after robbing them.
  • We learn of several rapes that occurred in the past. In one flashback, we see soldiers carrying a woman into a hut and one of them says, "You've got to get it while it's still fresh.
  • Portillo, the former priest, says that he no longer believes in Heaven because of the atrocities he has seen.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Seeing that Domingo is asleep, Fuentes carefully reaches for his gun, hoping that the former soldier doesn't wake up.
  • Although Fuentes thinks Domingo's gun is empty, he doesn't know that the former soldier has purchased three bullets. Several moments follow where Fuentes' confidence about the gun being empty nearly gets him shot.
  • Some villagers "sacrifice" several of their own people (from a demand issued by the soldiers - lest they all be killed) by shooting them in the head (we only see a gun to one's head, hear the shot, and then later see the bodies in shallow graves). The moments leading up to the shootings are tense.
  • On the urging and demands of his fellow soldiers, Domingo repeatedly stabs a man with a knife (we only see Domingo and not the actual stabbing, although we do see lots of blood) in a flashback.
  • A woman holds a gun to her head, threatening to commit suicide.
  • Fuentes and the others encounter a military roadblock where the outcome is uncertain, and later they encounter several armed guerillas in a scene that is also somewhat tense.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handgun: Used by Domingo to rob, threaten, and essentially kidnap Fuentes and Conejo.
  • Rifles/Machine guns: Carried by the soldiers and guerillas.
  • Gun: Used to shoot Domingo (not seen).
  • Handgun: Used to "sacrifice" several villagers by shooting them in the head (we see the gun to a head, but only hear the shot).
  • Knife: Used by Domingo to repeatedly stab a man at his comrades' insistence and urging.
  • A woman holds a gun to her head, threatening to commit suicide.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases (all in English subtitles): "Bastards," "Whores," "Idiot," "Pissing," "Shut up" and "Faggot."
  • A woman holds a gun to her head, threatening to commit suicide.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • None.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • (All in English subtitles): 9 "f' words, 6 "s" words, 3 asses (1 using "hole"), 3 damns and 1 hell used as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • A friend comments to Fuentes that one of his former students probably got a girl pregnant and had to run off and "save his ass."
  • Conejo tells Fuentes that some girls with him cooked for the soldiers, washed their clothes and "did it (had sex) with them (the soldiers)."
  • SMOKING
  • None.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • We learn that Fuentes' wife died some time recently and that this is his first "vacation" since her death.
  • We learn that Conejo has no "real" parents as he's the product of a soldier raping a woman.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Being ignorant of what one's own country and government might be doing. Here the doctor believes that "bad stuff" only happens elsewhere, but then learns that it happens in his own country.
  • VIOLENCE
  • We actually see little violence, with much of it being described.
  • A blind woman talks about a doctor and several other people being burned with gasoline.
  • Fuentes and Conejo visit an above ground graveyard of massacre victims and find many bones and a skull with a bullet hole in it.
  • We learn that medical instruments (scalpels, etc...) were used to torture villagers.
  • Domingo grabs Conejo and threatens to break his arm if Fuentes doesn't give him his money. He also threatens to shoot them.
  • Domingo returns and we see that he's been shot and wounded.
  • Fuentes learns that more of his former students were murdered.
  • We see a flashback where soldiers burn a village, bodies are on the ground, and we hear gunfire in the background.
  • Some villagers "sacrifice" several of their own people (from a demand issued by the soldiers -- lest they all be killed) by shooting them in the head (we only see a gun to one's head, hear the shot, and then later see the bodies in shallow graves).
  • On the urging and demands of his fellow soldiers, Domingo repeatedly stabs a man with a knife (we only see Domingo and not the actual stabbing, although we do see lots of blood) in a flashback.
  • We learn of several rapes that occurred in the past. In one flashback, we see soldiers carrying a woman into a hut and one of them says, "You've got to get it while it's still fresh."
  • Some boys watch a war movie on TV that briefly (but non-graphically) shows people who are shot.
  • A woman holds a gun to her head, threatening to commit suicide.



  • Reviewed March 20, 1998

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