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A GUN FOR JENNIFER

A reasonably potent 1996 addition to the female revenge movie subgenre that was never commercially released in the U.S. The pic was a bit overrated by the underground press, but I can’t deny that, as an exuberantly skuzzy throwback to the grindhouse programmers of the 1970s, it works.

The Package
     Unresolved music rights issues have reportedly kept A GUN FOR JENNIFER off the market in its native America. It did nonetheless receive a fair amount of praise and publicity, winning the Best International Film award at the 1997 Fantasia Film Festival and gracing the cover of issue #10 of Flesh and Blood magazine. It also had a mighty striking poster design, depicting a nude woman brandishing a handgun with the slogan “Dead Men Don’t Rape.” It’s a pity that poster, in common with movie it advertised, was so little seen in the US!

The Story
     A young serial rapist named Josh receives an answering machine message proclaiming “We’re gonna get you, fucker!” Seconds later five hooded figures break into Josh’s apartment and cut off his wang with a straight razor.
     Following this a young woman, an Ohio native with a checkered past, finds herself afoot in NYC. She walks through “the Deuce” (42nd Street), where she’s nearly raped by a pair of scumbags. She’s rescued by a band of militant women--the hooded attackers of the opening scene--who shoot the scumbags and whisk the young woman, who identifies herself as Jennifer, away in a van.
     Over the following days Jennifer is unwillingly inducted into the feminist vigilante squad that saved her. This entails putting her to work as a waitress in a trashy strip club the ladies run. One of those ladies, the gun-wielding Jessie, shoots an out-of-control man in the head one night, attracting the attention of Billie, a woman detective.
     This doesn’t stop the ladies from massacring a gang of pedophile rapists, during which Jennifer overcomes her distaste for killing by gunning down two of the scumbags. Their next target is a rapist judge who’s managed to avoid incarceration, but they succeed only in killing Billie’s undercover partner--and having one of their own, Jessie’s sister Trish, shot in the melee.
     The aftermath of this botched raid is severe, with the gals succumbing to infighting, and Jennifer--whose real name, we learn, is Allison--getting apprehended by Billie. She’s forced to become a snitch, reporting on the activities of her “psycho friends.” But then Jessie is kidnapped by a band of homicidal misogynists, and all the protagonists are drawn into a very bloody showdown.

The Direction
     There are a couple discussions about women’s rights in this film, suggesting that its protagonists’ feminist leanings be at least partially genuine. Overall, though, this is very much an exploitation movie, with all the unapologetic trashiness that term implies. It’s modeled on down-and-dirty classics like LAST HOUSE OF THE LEFT and MS. 45, and like those films works primarily due to its outrageousness, manifested in countless bloody shootings, several stabbings, a couple castrations and even a dissection.
     The film is mercifully free of the smug self-awareness that afflicts so many of today’s retro-grindhouse flicks. Unlike recent efforts like MACHETE and HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, the harsh, grainy visuals of A GUN FOR JENNIFER aren’t faked, and nor are the big city locations, which are as grimy and forbidding as can be imagined.
     Also in keeping with film’s low budget aesthetic, the acting is uniformly amateurish (there’s a reason we haven’t heard much from names like Benja Kay, Freida Hoops or Sheila Schmidt) and the narrative a paint-by-numbers affair that over-relies on dialogue. Yet the irresistible splat-happy climax, like those of quite a few classic grindhouse flicks, is satisfying enough to make up for many of the film’s shortcomings.

 
Vital Statistics

A GUN FOR JENNIFER
Conspiracy Films

Director: Todd Morris
Producer: Deborah Twiss
Screenplay: Todd Morris, Deborah Twiss
Cinematography: David Tumblety, Joe Digenarro
Editing: Todd Morris, Rachel Warden
Cast: Deborah Twiss, Benja Kay, Veronica Cruz, Tracy Dillon, Frieda Hoops, Rene Alberta, Beth Dodye Bass, Sheila Schmidt, Joe Pallister, Carl Jasper, Arthur Nascarella
 

     

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