5 October 2012 | ascheland
Stupid Enough for Seagal or Van Damme, but Starring Sam J. Jones
"Under the Gun" is a stupid, straight-to-video action movie that manages to be slightly more entertaining than expected because it's stupider than the usual stupid, straight-to-video action movie. Sam J. Jones is Mike Braxton, a Chicago cop on disciplinary leave, who gets a call for help from his ne'er do well brother (Nick Cassavetes) out in L.A.—a call made too late as the phone booth (remember those?) Mike's brother is calling from gets pushed off an overpass with him inside. When Mike shows up in L.A., he confers with his late brother's girlfriend, who resembles a pre-nose job Paula Jones. She gives him a couple leads for investigating his brother's death before she, too, is killed. It turns out Mike's bro was working for Simon Stone (John Russell), a restaurateur /black market arms dealer. Simon's rap sheet doesn't include murder – that is, until he procures some plutonium. When the buyer of the plutonium (Chris Mulkey, making almost a subliminal appearance) reneges on the deal, suddenly EVERYONE even remotely connected with the deal must die, including Mike's brother, the brother's big-nosed girlfriend, Mulkey, and all the guests at Mulkey's home. Mike is quickly added to Simon's hit list, and when he joins forces with Simon's lawyer (well, the assistant to Simon's lawyer) Samantha (Vanessa Williams), she also is slated for killing. Lots of gunfire, car chases and explosions ensue. Stone's men are so eager to off Mike and Samantha they break out a rocket launcher in a parking garage. Fortunately for the villains, no one else in L.A. appears to notice, least of all the cops, who only show up to give Mike a hard time for meddling in their investigation.
It's pretty ridiculous, even by straight-to-video-action-movies-titled- "Under the Gun" standards. Still, this could just as easily have been a vehicle for Steven Seagal or, with some kick-boxing added, Jean Claude Van Damme. But instead it stars Sam J. Jones, whose career at this point was running on the rapidly dissipating fumes left in the wake of the camp classic "Flash Gordon," a role that seemed to generate more interest in Jones' 1975 Playgirl pictorial than catapult him to the top of the A-list (Jones' nude modeling past might explain why he gets a gratuitous shower scene in "Gun"). Conversely, Vanessa Williams was at this time busy trying to move on from her Penthouse magazine scandal and establish herself as an actress and singer (no nude scenes for her, thank you). While Jones and Williams don't generate much heat as a romantic couple, they do have chemistry as a crime-fighting duo and are actually fun to watch. They know what caliber movie they're in and often wear expressions that say, "Can you believe this s---?" On the other hand, hollow-cheeked John Russell, in his last role before his death in 1990, approaches his part with the gravity of a casket salesman. Appearing as members of Simon Stone's squad of ruthless-but-incompetent goons are Rockne ("Black Samson") Tarkington and Don Stark, better known as Donna's dad from "That '70s Show."
This is not a movie that's worth seeking out, but if you happen across a copy of it at a garage sale it's worth a dollar--though I'd still try to talk the seller down to 50 cents.