By SHAWN MACOMBER
Starring Kate Hoffman, Rosanne Rubino and Christy Casey
Written and directed by Brian Darwas
If you count yourself among the demoralized masses who have been semi-patiently praying for a hero to rise and take on our Oh my God—this shit again?! era, rejoice—she has arrived. Which is to say, while the contours of GET MY GUN are broadly recognizable—a normal woman is forced to take extraordinary measures in the wake of an unspeakable crime—the (no pun intended) execution here is special for two reasons:
First and foremost, Kate Hoffman’s nuanced and multifaceted performance as Amanda is something very special. The actress believably embodies a crazy-wide spectrum of pathos and humanity, ranging from a kind of slacker-chic sweetness and concomitant snark-tinged loving kindness to damaged meekness to confusion to deflection to slow-boil defiance to pure, unrestrained righteous fury. This is no simplistic “flip the switch” revenge tale; we feel every turn of the ratchet. Hoffman’s charisma and vulnerability allow us to invest and be affected by every step.
Second, the film (playing special engagements nationwide starting tomorrow; see the details here) does not pull its punches. As suggested above, writer/director Brian Darwas brings a level of sophistication and trust-in-audience to this story that is all too rare. That said, when it’s time to get his grindhouse on, he does not hesitate to bring the violence, the depravity, the defilement, the rage, the bloodshed. GET MY GUN is a beautiful character study and the story of a friendship forged in the gutter. It’s also brutal and disquieting.
Vengeance, Darwas seems to believe, is a dish served twice. Hot or cold—who the hell cares? In this universe, the violators may occasionally appear to have the upper hand, but, in the end, those who need to pay for their crimes will pay—and then pay again.
In a bravura opening sequence, Amanda and her young daughter are sneaking in a little swing time at the playground. Mom’s in a nun’s habit ‘cause it’s Halloween day, the little girl’s giggling, and all is well in the world—until Amanda spots a leering groundskeeper. Next thing we know, the kid’s in the car seat and the dude is getting into Amanda’s car trunk under the watchful black, empty eyes of a double-barreled shotgun. At a roadside stop, he begs for forgiveness and is punished shockingly for the presumption that he may deserve it.
How did we get here?
Time to rewind. It’s now a year earlier and, though clearly not loving her gig as a maid at a filthy pay-by-the-hour hotel, Amanda has not yet suffered the trauma that will transform her into an avenger. She’s saving up to go back to school. The new girl, Rebecca (Christy Casey), is cool and friendly. There’s a possible promotion on the horizon. As seers of the future, alas, we are forced to wait for the attack we know is coming—a scene which is nonetheless as shocking as it is stomach-churning when it arrives.
In the wake of the rape, Amanda learns she is pregnant, and after coming across a random on-line ad taken out by a childless middle-aged woman, she somewhat reluctantly chooses to give the baby up for adoption. Unfortunately, this painful presumed panacea slowly becomes another catastrophe when this apparently professional adult woman (a doctor, no less) slips into creepy behavior. Which gives way to straight-up stalkerisms. Which spirals down into knife-wielding, psychotic rage. (Kudos to Rosanne Rubino, whose Catherine can inspire empathy in us even as she’s chewing up the scenery and projecting real menace.) Obviously, collision is imminent on all fronts. No spoilers, but when it comes, it is harrowing and satisfying.
“How is this my life?” Amanda screams at one point, covered in blood, extremely pregnant and out of gas in the middle of nowhere. It’s a question we’ve all asked—albeit typically for much less serious reasons—and so watching Amanda ultimately overcome and triumph is inspiring. Reality can be ugly, but in GET MY GUN, the resiliency and power of the human spirit is beautiful and enlivening.