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TV REVIEW : ‘Gun’ Draws a Bead on Weapons Business

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Full of real-life mystery, intrigue and shady government dealings, HBO’s “Doomsday Gun” is the type of intricately woven thriller that demands the viewer’s undivided attention.

This politically trenchant film revolves around Canadian arms designer and dealer Gerald Bull, who was assassinated in 1990 while building a “super gun” for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Had it been completed, the gun--with a barrel nearly 200 yards long and firing a shell the size of a telephone booth--would have been the largest weapon of its kind.

“Doomsday Gun” is perhaps most compelling for its critical look at the morally bankrupt nature of the international arms business and the clandestine role some Western governments played in feeding the Iraqi war machine. It is noted at the end of the movie that approximately $3 billion of American taxpayers’ dollars was secretly funneled to Iraq in the years before the Gulf War.

In the film, the United States and Britain are well aware that Bull is building a massive gun for Iraq with parts delivered from various European countries. Supporters of Iraq in its war with Iran, the two allies choose to look the other way rather than try to prevent the weapon from falling into the hands of the volatile Hussein.

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Frank Langella is transfixing as the obsessive Bull. With his imposing frame and almost maniacal stare, Langella plays the arms designer as a man far more preoccupied with achieving glory than in making money.

But Bull’s naivete and single-minded drive to build his super gun blind him to the dangers around him. He never fully grasps that there are countries--including Israel, Iran and possibly even Iraq--that might feel more comfortable if he were six feet underground. Who killed Bull is the film’s intriguing, unsolved mystery.

* “Doomsday Gun” airs at 8 tonight on HBO. It will repeat July 26 and 31 and Aug. 3, 8 and 12.


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