Looking at the poster or various DVD covers that come up when searching Gutshot Straight on Google Images will probably raise the wrong expectations of this movie with most people. One might get the idea that this is a Steven Seagal movie with Vinnie Jones as the co-star based on the marketing materials, but these guys are only in a handful of scenes. The true star of Gutshot Straight is C.S.I. George Eads who plays a professional gambler named Jack living in Las Vegas. Down on his luck and in debt with loan shark Paulie Trunks (Seagal) he turns to wealthy Duffy (Stephen Lang) who offers him a job for a large amount of money. While reluctant at first, the financial pressure becomes too big, but once in bed with Duffy (almost quite literally by the way) he finds himself in a difficult spot.
Gutshot Straight has the style and tone of a slick Hollywood thriller and makes good use of the Las Vegas setting. It also has a surprising ensemble cast consisting of character actors like Stephen Lang and Ted Levine. Fun fact: not only is this movie set in Las Vegas starring a character who’s best known for his role in a show set in Las Vegas, both Lang and Levine starred in the 80’s cop drama Crime Story which was also set in Las Vegas for the majority of its episodes.
The cast adds an extra layer or strangeness to a movie that isn’t too easy to get a grip on in the first place. Seagal, Jones, Lang, Levine and Eads all in the same movie? Not the most obvious cast. But it does work in a way: Jones is typecast as an enforcer for Seagal’s loan shark Paulie. Seagal himself is actually the biggest surprise of this movie. While he only has 3 scenes he makes them work surprisingly well. When you look at most of his work of the past few years it must be said that he’s sleepwalking through all those roles in movies he’s the star in, yet in these three scenes he shines and actually seems to have fun. To be honest, in his 60’s Seagal does come across as a convincing mobster.
Also obviously having fun is Stephen Lang as Duffy, who hams it up but remains a mystery to us until the very end. This is the main problem Gutshot Straight has. The radiant casting choices and actors having fun can’t hide the fact that it’s never really clear what’s going on and why characters do certain things. The whole relationship between Duffy and his brother Lewis (Levine) is never explained as well as the motivations behind the actions Duffy’s trophy wife May (AnnaLynne McCord) who’s the femme fatale of this movie. At certain moments I got the feeling director Justin Steele, a name that sounds like a porn-pseudonym, was trying to make a David Lynch movie and reality and dreams were going to intertwine.
But aside from the somewhat vague and puzzling story I found Gutshot Straight surprisingly watchable. Yes, it’s part due to the stunt casting, but the movie also breathes a nice atmosphere and feels like a film noir from time to time. Though I’m not much of a gambling man myself, Las Vegas can always be counted on as that silent supporting character in the background.