In the tradition of classic westerns, a narrator sets up the story of a lone gunslinger who walks into a saloon. However, the people in this saloon can hear the narrator and the narrator may just be a little bit bloodthirsty.
If there is one thing that being an editor teaches you it is the importance of timing. So given that director Eric Kissack has spent almost all of his career in film as an editor on films such as ‘Role Models’, ‘Bruno’, ‘The Dictator’ and ‘Daddy’s Home’, the fact that his film ‘The Gunfighter’ is a masterclass in comic timing should come as a surprise to no one.
As the film opens, we are treated to all of the expected tropes of the western genre. The location, wardrobe and mise en scene is exactly what we would expect, right down to the super widescreen format. Equally befitting of the typical western style is the deep and grizzled tones of the brilliant Nick Offerman’s narration. Things take an unexpected turn when the lead character, the titular gunfighter (Shawn Parsons) begins to react to the disembodied voice in the air. From that point on, Offerman’s narrator seems hell bent on screwing with every character in the story, spilling the beans on affairs, repressed homosexual tendencies, STDs and more.
The key to the film’s comic genius lies almost entirely in the juxtaposition of the increasingly agitated characters having their dirty laundry aired by the disembodied voice and Offerman’s unflinching and unwavering tones. A particularly brilliant moment sees Parsons’ protagonist address the black bartender while the narrator explains the train of thought that leads the gunfighter to adopt a progressive attitude about race, all while surrounded by characters getting ready to start a shoot out for his numerous crimes.
The supporting cast do a lot of the heavy lifting from a comedic perspective, particularly Eileen O’Connell as Sally “the itchy whore” as well as Scott Beenher and Brace Harris as the Henderson Brothers. Much of the strength of what could easily be childish humour, lies in the silent reactions of the characters to what Offerman’s narrator reveals about them. Being able to nail surprise, or embarrassment or guilt without overplaying the moment requires considerable skill, and Eric Kissack’s direction deftly guides the skill of a very talented cast to hilarious effect.
If you love fourth wall-shattering dry humour with a splash of madcap conflict, then this meta comedy western certainly won’t disappoint.
Studio: Eric Kissack
Duration: 9 mins
Director: Eric Kissack
Producer: Sarah Platt
Writer: Kevin Tenglin