Directed by: Giuliano Montaldo
Starring: John Cassavetes, Brit Ekland, Peter Falk, Gena Rowlands
When you title a film Machine Gun McCain you establish a couple of basic expectations. One, a character named McCain and two; the character McCain exhibits a predilection for automatic weapons. While technically the film delivers on both of those expectations it doesn’t quite live up to the spirit of the title. Instead of a B level mafia exploitation movie what is delivered is a B level mafia drama.
In case you had any doubts about the ruthlessness of mobsters the movie starts out with a mafia trial. A bunch of well dressed, fleshy, middle aged men all sit around a table while evidence is presented against one of their peers. Then and after a minimum amount of consideration and head shaking the verdict is returned, guilty. Illustrating the efficiency of thug justice the condemned man is run down in front of his family the next morning. This leaves a vacancy in the organization which is filled by the ambitious if rough around the edges Charlie Adamo, played exuberantly by Peter Falk. Moving quickly to take advantage of his new position Charlie pulls a strong-arm move to buy into a Las Vegas casino. When the management of the Casino rebuffs his offer Charlie lays plans for some payback.
Meanwhile Machine Gun McCain, or more simply Hank, played by John Cassavetes, is serving a life sentence in San Quentin for armed robbery when unexpectedly he receives a pardon. His son picks him up at the gate and informs him that his pardon cost twenty five thousand dollars and that he arranged it because he needs his fathers help on a job knocking over a Las Vegas casino. You guessed it the same casino that rejected Charlie Adamo’s offer. This is the “payback” that Charlie is arranging.
Make sense so far? Good, because now it gets complicated. It turns out that Charlie’s bosses, remember the well dressed, fleshy, middle aged men from the beginning of the movie? Well it turns out that they actually are the owners of the casino that Charlie tried to buy into. And they are not pleased with Charlie. Charlie manages to smooth the ruffled feathers but if the casino heist goes off as planned he knows his goose is cooked. The trouble is that McCain has already staked out the place, planned the caper, an even gotten married, true he just met the girl, but she’s put up with him for at least two days and they are in Vegas after all. So he’s not to keen on just leaving the expected two million dollar haul sitting in the casino’s vault and since this is at least partially a heist movie I’m going to stop the plot summary right here.
Okay a heist movie, if that’s what this is, is supposed to be a little complicated. Complicated is fine, confusing is not. The story sort of hangs together but there are just too many moments when the characters actions just don’t make any sense. You can tell the filmmakers didn’t even have much faith in the storyline because they stuck an ill fitting narration in a couple of places to fill in the blanks. Even that could be forgiven if the characters are compelling. They are not. The bad guys are all cookie cutter archetypes. With the exception of Falk’s Adamo, who is just a paint by numbers well dressed hotheaded thug, they are soulless bureaucrats, scary but not very interesting. Britt Ekland almost makes Irene, the love interest for McCain, interesting but the character is such a milksop I don’t think anyone could have saved her.
And then there is McCain, the anti-hero. Or at least he’s supposed to be an anti-hero. An anti-hero is supposed to be at least sympathetic, but McCain never is. Cassevetes plays him two ways, the cold emotionless operator or the asshole. You get the feeling he’s the kind of guy that people only put up with because he’s so damn good at what he does. The only truly interesting character is his old partner, Rose Mary Scott, played by Gena Rowlands, but she doesn’t show up until the last act and then only for a few scenes. The direction is competent, some of the shots in Vegas are kind of cool actually, and who knew Vegas firemen had a slide instead of a pole. The score is by Ennio Morricone but it’s go to be the flattest work Morricone ever did.
The video is presented in widescreen format in 1080p. It looks gorgeous. The skin tones are spot on and the contrast is suburb. There is plenty of detail in the shadows and a very little grain is noticeable. There are one or two short shots that the focus is a little soft on, I suspect they were pieces of stock footage. They are really only noticeable because the rest of the video looks so good. I never noticed any aliasing, moiré, blooming or any other digital artifacts. The film actually looks good enough that you start to overlook some of the story and character problems.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD mono in English only with English, French and Spanish subtitles. Even though the sound is just in mono it sounds great. The dialog, score and foley all blend together perfectly. The only issue and it’s a minor one is some obvious dialog overdubbing.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The Blu-Ray Disc comes in a standard Blu-Ray blue translucent case. The artwork is better than the actual movie. I especially enjoy the insert artwork when you open the case. There is not a lot of extras. An English and Italian trailer and a twenty three minute interview with the director Giuliano Montaldo.
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10
While I am not a fan of the movie, Blue Underground did an outstanding job with this release. It’s almost worth purchasing just for the transfer and artwork.
The Movie 4/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10