The title of Guns, Girls and Gambling doesn't quite describe this movie- there's a good amount of guns, but only a few girls and only one real scene of gambling. Christian Slater (with his usual mannerisms) stars as "John Smith" who visits a casino on Indian land, hoping to win some money on slots or meet a girl but strikes out on both. On a whim he decides to enter an Elvis Presley impersonation contest (the casino even provides his costume). He performs for an audience of about five people (and very briefly, as the film's budget didn't seem to allow licensing for many Elvis songs), but doesn't win. The participants (Gary Oldman who wins the contest, along with Tony Cox, Chris Kattan and Anthony Brandon Wong) are friendly enough with each other however to stick around and play poker in a VIP room afterwards. Trouble arises when an ancient tribal mask kept in the office of the Indian chief, also the owner of the casino, disappears, and all the Elvis participants are suspects. The Indians' first reaction is to hunt down and kill them all, searching them for the mask only after they're dead.
John Smith is lucky however when the two Indians assigned to kill him are shot by someone else. John then retrieves the contest winner's address and searches his apartment hoping to find the mask, but ends up being found and chased by "The Cowboy" (Jeff Fahey). Running from him, John continues to track down the winner and the missing mask while also being chased by "The Rancher" (Powers Boothe), the town's two bought-and-paid-for sheriffs (Dane Cook and Sam Trammell), and a mysterious woman called "The Blonde" who shoots people while quoting Edgar Alan Poe.
The story is rather simple but there are many characters and twists, with some things not explained until the very end. This was another one of those movies I had to watch a second time to really "get". A perhaps unfair bias I had was that Guns, Girls and Gambling does not seem to have ever had a theatrical release, it does not even have an MPAA rating although the content does not go beyond an "R". I do not know whether it was ever intended as a theatrical movie or a straight-to-video project. (Universal has at least been somewhat creative by releasing this on disc during the week of Elvis Presley's birthday.) Nevertheless, it isn't bad- everything is obviously tongue-in-cheek and not meant to be taken seriously. One amusing element is the way characters are introduced- the first time they are onscreen and speak their first line, the image freezes, the background takes on a solid color and the character's name appears, similar to a movie trailer. There is a running joke about "politically correct" ways of referring to people, such as "Indians" versus "Native Americans" and "midget" versus "little person", again meant all in good fun.
Presented in 1.85 in 1080P VC1, Guns, Girls and Gambling looks very nice here, with the 90-minute film being generously given a dual-layer disc despite no extras aside from some trailers being included. Foreground objects are in sharp focus with every detail present including the Utah desert scenery (and some shots with camera crew and equipment reflected). Colors appear natural and not over or under saturated (except in a few brief flashbacks where colors are intentionally muted). The movie may have felt more 'authentic' had there been some film grain, but obviously it was intended to look clean.
Audio is in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. All dialogue and effects are clear (it was mixed at a THX facility) and although surround use is a bit restrained there are a few moments where distinct voices or effects come from the left or right rear, which startled me a bit watching this late at night. The music score is also spread nicely through all channels.
Subtitles in English SDH format and Spanish are included.
No extras relating to the movie are included, but the disc opens with a few "Look for it on Blu-Ray and DVD" trailers in high definition and 5.1 Dolby Digital except where noted: The Awakening (in 2-channel sound), Cat Run, 126.96.36.199, Death Race 3: Inferno, Hit & Run, and End of Watch. (Universal seems to have a preference of using BD-Live to show trailers via internet connection on most of their discs; of course these look and sound much better being on the disc itself.)
Before the movie starts a notice is given that the menu can be brought up with the "Pop-Up Menu" button. When the movie ends, it starts again from the beginning with the menu brought up (done in the same style as all of Universal's menus going back to HD-DVD.) A short video explaining how to use the "UHear" function is included (hit the yellow button during the movie and it will re-play the last 30 seconds with English subtitles displayed) and some still-frame tutorials on the bookmark functions and playing the disc on a Playstation 3.
Guns, Girls and Gambling is entertaining enough but it just misses the mark in my opinion. I've said the same about similar movies before however that turned out to be cult favorites, so we'll see how this fares in a few years.
Pictures in this review were not taken from the Blu-Ray disc.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.