Directed by: Justin Lee
Written by: #JustinLee
Quite often a film’s subject isn’t really what it’s about. We rarely remember the road in road movies. Similarly, #Westerns take a unique setting and use it to tell stories of ambiguous morality rather than the civilisation of a frontier. Few genres can have an audience cheering for one mass murderer over another.
Any Bullet Will Do, written and directed by Justin Lee begins with two warring brothers caught on opposite sides of the Civil War whose hatred for one another sees them hunting each other long after the war is over. One brother, Hollis Ransom, (Kevin Makely) is now a headhunter tasked with hunting down the other (Todd A. Robinson) for stealing from the local gold baron. With the help of the local trapper's daughter, Rose (Jenny Curtis), Hollis sets out to kill his brother.
Each of the leads' performances is good and, given the material they have to work with, they're commendable. The script and the direction are very Western-by-numbers and even though this is actually a film about two brothers we realise there's not much to them either. It becomes clear early on that the film expects us to accept one and condemn the other because they are meant to be the hero (or the villain), rather than making any effort to actualise these roles. Amazingly the scenes also do very little to advance the plot and yet are still in desperate need of an edit. The camera does nothing but cover the script, while the regularly scheduled action rattles through every Western cliché in the book, making the film feel even flatter than it was.
Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name is a mystery because he says almost nothing. We have to judge him on when he does and doesn't act and ask ourselves why he did what he did.
Sixty years ago The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance showed us two clashing toxic male characters and delivered an impactful bittersweet ending. This indie film seems to take pride in its two very loud, head-butting brothers. And as a result thinks we'll be on side when Hollis says to Rose, ‘you won't end up like me: you've got too much emotion. I'm a killer without a conscience.' And instead, we're laughing because the film also thinks it has depth and shows Hollis in anger or in tears every time he kills someone (don't worry he'll be over it by the next scene). The male leads boil down to two ridiculous amalgamations of vapid masculinity and we don't care what happens to either of them.
There are no discussions of morality here; in fact, there is no story here, other than two brothers having a pissing contest. Lee relies on the work of others to make the exciting bits but he forgets to add any motivation behind the spectacle. What's worse is that it thinks it's raising questions about the evils of pre-Civil War America but allows no black characters to contribute to this debate. Similarly, it thinks it's pointing out how dangerous a period of history this was but does so by needlessly pointing out how it is specifically dangerous to women and how men can revel in violence with no consequence.
Obviously, any film is free to be whatever it wants. However, Any Bullet Will Do chooses to ask its audience to sit for two hours and watch out-dated and underwritten characters, literally grunt and roar at each other, while supposedly representing two sides of a debate.
This film is not just dull; it can't find anything new to be dull about.