Starring: Harvey Keitel, Leonardo Pieraccioni, David Bowie

Director: Giovanni Veronesi
Released: 1998

Mood: If you recently wronged someone you love and feel like an absolutely POS and want to submit yourself to 87 minutes of televised torture.


I brought just one Western DVD with me on a short trip, and it was Gunslinger’s Revenge. Good title, two great actors. Sounds promising, right?


I regret every decision I made in life that led me to this place, in which I’ve now not only seen but also own this movie.


What a useless load of crap.


  • It’s an insult to the genre of Spaghetti Westerns – I would rather rewatch Shatner trying to be Indigenous in White Comanche, which is saying a LOT
  • It’s an insult to the memory of David Bowie – I’m officially pretending that his last appearances in film were Zoolander and Basquiat
  • It’s an insult to the eyes and ears of anyone who mistakenly watches it

Enough preamble. Let’s eviscerate this thing.


photo of the Gunslinger's Revenge DVD


Gunslinger’s Revenge opens on a small, fictional frontier town in 1860. A child’s voice starts recapping the story of his childhood. My immediate reaction was like, “Please let this be a flashback. Please let the kid grow up in the first 10 minutes, and switch to an adult actor.”


NOPE. Your guide to the entire film is this cherubic voice, reading you a bedtime story in painfully simplistic language. His story bounces back and forth between describing cheeky mischief straight out of an oldschool Disney movie… and a perplexingly nonchalant recount of that time a psychopath came to town and raped and killed people.


Jeremiah (Yudii Mercredi) is the young protagonist. His dad (Leonardo Pieraccioni) is a white, pacifist, vegetarian doctor and his mom (Sandrine Holt) is ‘Indigenous’. They’re pretty content with their lot in life, according to the saccharine narration. Then estranged grandpa Johnny (Harvey Keitel) rolls into town.


Johnny is a retired gunslinger who did some violent things in his career, which is believable given Keitel’s usual roles. But we don’t get to see any of that or even hear about it. We just get this charming, easy-going grandpa-type guy.


Turns out Johnny is being hunted by an evil gunslinger named Jack (David Bowie). Jack wants a showdown, and tries to provoke Johnny into a fight by raping, murdering, and kidnapping his way around town. You think you know where the plot is headed, but the predictable ending would have been a thousand times better than the one we get.


illustration of a moustache that is curled at the ends


WHY did David Bowie do this to me? Did the director or a producer have something on him? Was he high when he agreed to do it?


The script is seriously terrible. The production is terrible. Trying to make a Spaghetti Western 20+ years after they’d gone out of style and producing a hokey PG-13 comedy that basically straps cement shoes onto the genre and chucks it into a river – TERRIBLE f*cking idea.


Bowie’s not bad in Gunslinger’s Revenge – his presence is always captivating. He’s the only one in the movie who attempts a drawling accent. His eyes and slow, calculated movements radiate craziness. I mean, just look at him.


screenshot of David Bowie as Jack, holding up a pistol. a black upside down cross painted on his forehead


But you spend the first two thirds of the film waiting for the nefarious Jack to appear, suffering through the after-school-special version of the Old West. And then when he arrives, the payoff is fleeting.


Jack and his posse LOOK cool, like steampunk mercenaries. He’s accompanied by an evil albino, a leather-clad photographer, and ‘Rastafarian’ (literally the character’s name). In another movie, this group would have massive potential – like imagine them as part of The Hateful Eight.


Instead, his entrance marks a sharp pivot to almost an entirely different directorial style, and scenes with psychological torture (Bowie singing the same song over and over, off-key, while plucking a guitar), rape (not shown, but Bowie calmly announces that he’s going to do it), and murder aplenty.


Yet you can’t even treat this dark turn as if it’s a movie-within-a-movie, because the cheesy comic relief is still infuriatingly peppered throughout.


Harvey Kietel also could have made this a totally different movie, if he was able to BE Harvey Kietel. Although the role is a gunslinger and he would have made a badass one, the script hogties him to the kid and never lets him go. The most he gets to do is intimidate a couple of people with a stern stare.


You can see that glint in his eyes and feel his trademark wisecracks bubbling beneath the surface, but he just has nowhere to go.


Yudii Mercredi, who hails from the Yukon’s Vuntut Gwitch’in First Nation, shows great potential. On set, Bowie apparently told him that he was a special talent. It’s too bad the voiceover is so nauseatingly bad, because it takes away from his performance by making it seem as if it’s him doing a piss-poor job of storytelling.


illustration of a moustache that is curled at the ends


Gunslinger’s Revenge feels like it was created by a first-time writer and a first-time director, and everyone involved was just there to collect a paycheque.


There’s no cohesion, no entertainment, and an astounding lack of anything like the Western vibe, Spaghetti or otherwise.


This movie starts out like Tom and Huck, abruptly turns into a violent steampunk Western, and concludes with worse slapstick comedy and ‘getting high’ jokes than A Million Ways to Die in the West. A beloved character is killed, and nobody mentions her again. There’s no mourning. In fact, they are all SUPER cheerful at the end.


And the idiotic comic sidekick character who is awkwardly wedged into the plot gets to be the ultimate hero, which makes NO F*CKING SENSE AT ALL.


In conclusion, I’m sorry I bought this DVD just because of David Bowie, and I’m sorry I told everyone about it in this review in case that results in anyone watching it. Don’t do it, friends. Just don’t.