A Gun in Each Hand: Rome Review

Deadpan Spanish dramedy shoots off wit and wisdom rather than bullets.

Ricardo Darin, Eduardo Noriega and Javier Camara highlight this wry Catalan comedy from writer-director Cesc Gay.

ROME -- There are no actual shootouts in A Gun in Each Hand (Una pistol en cada mano), but plenty of male egos are wounded in this clever collection of comic vignettes from Catalan auteur Cesc Gay (Fiction, In the City). Starring a top-notch cast of Spanish-language talents—including Ricardo Darin (The Secret in Their Eyes), Eduardo Noriega (The Devil’s Backbone)and Javier Camara (Talk to Her)—this Rome festival premiere should see decent homeland returns for its December 5th release, with additional fest play and scattered art house stints abroad.

A variation on such shorts-structured features as Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, the scenario (co-written with regular collaborator Tomas Aragay) hops from one seemingly unrelated 15-minute sequence to another, although they all tell similar tales of 40-something men suffering mid-life crises and sexual emasculation at the hands of their significant others, or ex-others.

STORY: Rome Film Festival in Brief

The film’s opening bit sets the pace for much of what comes next: two old friends (Eduard Fernandez, Leonardo Sparaglia) randomly bump into each other on the street, engaging in a long and revealing conversation about their messed up lives, both of which have been undone by their relationships with women.

Other scenes include a divorced hubby (Camara) hoping to hook up with his former wife; two acquaintances (Darin, Luis Tosar) crossing paths on a park bench and realizing they have much more in common than they’d like to; and one particularly funny sequence where a recent dad (Noriega) tries to hit on a fellow office worker (Candela Pena), only to learn a thing or two about sexual harassment.

In all cases, Gay uses such chance encounters to explore the changing gender roles in Spanish society, which is revealed to be a far cry from the macho days of Ernest Hemingway's novels, and closer to a matriarchy where women rule the roost, both in bed or elsewhere. Indeed, many of the laughs come from the way the male characters ever so humbly attempt to get what they want, and often wind up getting the opposite. This is best displayed in the divorcé sequence, where the ex-husband meekly tries to talk his way into ex-wife’s pants and ultimately finds himself moving his boxes out of her apartment.

It’s a refreshing development for a Latin-lingo comedy (the French could certainly learn a thing or two from Gay’s work), and along with his encouraging modern message, the filmmaker manages to make each of his vignettes both witty and surprising, starting off on a casual note and then flipping things around to reveal the truth behind bourgeois appearances.

The line-up of veteran actors and actresses—many who have appeared in Gay’s previous movies, as well as those of Pedro Almodovar—impressively execute the dialogues in well-timed tête-à-tête’s that often play out in a single setting. In fact, the director and his D.P. Andreu Rebes so reduce the cinematic scope of their movie that Barcelona looks less like a real city than a theatrical backdrop where the war of the sexes is constantly being fought out, with the advantage clearly going to the ladies.

Venue: Rome Film Festival (Out of Competition)

Production companies: Impossible Films

Cast: Ricardo Darin, Javier Camara, Eduardo Noriega, Eduard Fernandez, Luis Tosar

Director: Cesc Gay

Screenwriters: Cesc Gay, Tomas Aragay

Producer: Marta Esteban

Director of photography: Andreu Rebes

Production designer: Sylvia Steinbrecht

Costume designer: Anna Guell

Music: Jordi Prats

Editor: Frank Gutierrez

Sales: The Match Factory

No rating, 91 minutes