‘Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?’: Film Review

Area 23a
'Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?'
A guns-and-sex comedy that fires blanks on all fronts.
9/16/2016

The women of a gun-lovin’ Texas town stage a sex strike to get their men to give up their weapons in a comedy whose ensemble includes Cloris Leachman, John Heard and Christine Estabrook.

Tackling the hot-button issue of gun violence with a rough-hewn bludgeon, writer-director Matt Cooper borrows a page from Aristophanes and dumbs it way, way down. His painfully unfunny Texas-twang spin on Lysistrata filters an ostensibly progressive point of view through a thoroughly regressive lens. It’s unclear who would spark to Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?, other than fans of really bad sitcoms. 

The ordeal is set in the fictional Rockford, Texas, where a sign announcing a population of 6,969 is the first indication of the material’s level of humor. A running “joke” that’s tired before it starts involves a granny (Cloris Leachman) who talks dirty — the assumption being that old people + sex = comedy gold, a dated notion that even Leachman can’t breathe life into.

Cooper’s one-note Texans — filmed in flat and functional fashion in Southern California — include a hot-tamale Latina (Fernanda Romero) who’s trying to conceive a child with her clownish husband (Horatio Sanz), a goofy mayor (John Michael Higgins), a goofy sheriff (John Heard) and his upright wife (Christine Estabrook), and a goofy token single guy (Max Lloyd-Jones). The men are mostly doofuses who hunt, while the women have time to sit around talking about sex, expressing varying levels of satisfaction and interest.

The “normal” — i.e., blonde and well-behaved — couple at the center of the story, Jenna and Glenn (Andrea Anders and Matt Passmore), find themselves at loggerheads after a shooting incident involving their tween son. Horrified by the blasé attitude toward what she views as preventable danger, Jenna takes it upon herself to be the “snowflake that starts an avalanche,” as the screenplay reminds us more than once, and withholds sex from Glenn until he agrees to get rid of his sizable stash of guns.

The idea gains momentum, and soon all the women of Rockford are on a sex strike, drawing the attention of the “National Gun Organization,” which naturally responds by trucking in hookers for the town’s deprived males. The women play dirty too, and Viagra gets its moment in the crude comic mix.

Cooper weaves a few well-placed observations about gun culture and male condescension into the heavy-handed mess. But while the references to M16s and Mausers might raise a chuckle in open-carry territory, and the strained sex humor might delight an audience beamed in from 1980, the simplistic premise is a nonstarter. From the thudding jokes to the deus ex machina appearance of the town’s reclusive millionaire (Kevin Conway), the movie turns a well-meaning impulse into an equal-opportunity offender. No matter which side of the issue you stand on, Gun’s bad aim is glaring.

Distributor: Area 23a
Production company: The Vault
Cast: Andrea Anders, Matt Passmore, Horatio Sanz, John Michael Higgins, Lauren Bowles, Christine Estabrook, John Heard, Marshall Bell, David Denman, Fernanda Romero, Kevin Conway, Cloris Leachman, Katherine McNamara, Max Lloyd-Jones, Chad James Buchanan
Director-screenwriter: Matt Cooper
Producers: Lori Miller, Matt Cooper  
Executive producer: David Cooper
Director of photography: Armando Salas
Production designer: Franco Carbone
Costume designer: Michele Michel
Editor: Luis Colina
Composer: Tom Howe
Casting: Ronnie Yeskel

Rated R, 97 minutes

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