Marcia Gay Harden gives one of her most vivid portrayals to date in "American Gun" as Janet, the mother of one of two teenagers who carried out a Columbine-style shooting spree at their Oregon high school.
Struggling to provide for her younger son, David (the exceptional Christopher Marquette), after being fired from two jobs, Harden agrees to a paid TV interview upon the third anniversary of the tragedy. The journalist asks just the sort of questions many people think but are afraid to ask - how can a mother not know her son is going off the deep end? - and she responds with answers many won't want to hear.
Janet and David's interpersonal dilemma in the wake of this community tragedy is one of three locales in Aric Avelino's "American Gun," which confronts the omnipresence of firearms in American culture and its effect on people's lives. Avelino's and Steven Bagatourian's peripatetic script also jumps between a high-crime district of Chicago, where a high school principal (Forest Whitaker) wages an all-consuming battle to keep his students weapon-free, and a university town in Virginia, where a student (Linda Cardellini) working at her grandfather's (Donald Sutherland) gun shop is initially alienated by his wares, but is gradually seduced by them.
Of the multiple scenarios, only the Harden-Marquette drama strikes any real sparks. Avelino's message about America's gun-happy culture is so foursquare and what-you-see-is-what-you-get that it's possible to walk out of the film wondering if you missed the point.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times