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Review: '9 Bullets' (2022) Dir. Gigi Gaston

Lena Headey, Sam Worthington, Dean Scott Vazquez, Cam Gigandet, La La Anthony, Barbara Hershey, Stephanie Arcila, Marc Menchaca and Marlene Forte


Gigi Gaston writes and directs this tale of an unexpected bond formed in the face of great danger, and an unlikely road-trip that changes everyone involved...

When young Sam (Vazquez) is left a wandering orphan after his parents are murdered by crime lord Jack (Worthington), he is picked up by his neighbour, former burlesque dancer turned wannabe author Gypsy (Headey).

Knowing Sam has nowhere to go where he will be safe, Gypsy reluctantly begins the drive across states to get him to his Uncle. But with Sam holding onto his father's laptop that incriminates Jack, he has made himself a target.

Gypsy struggles to deal with being a guardian to Sam, and staying one step ahead of Jack who is her former lover. The two start to form an unlikely bond, getting closer with each step and having to fight to stay alive...

A road-movie with a difference, in which relationships are forged and put to the test. It sounds like a Liam Neeson movie on the outset - a group of hitmen tracking down a young boy holding a wealth of secrets in his fathers laptop who needs protecting - but far from it. It's often gentle and sombre in tone, slow with the action and an exploration about care and love, and the power it holds over us when forced to take a stand.

Lena Headey is the star of the show, and even Sam Worthington can't stand alongside her. In fact, with the few scenes he's in, hidden behind Ray Bans, a Stetson and chewing sweets, he doesn't get to do much or add real menace. The goons in charge of hunting down young Sam are very average, very flat and very pedestrian. They don't command a sense of villainy as expected, and are just there to push Headey forward, grunting and snarling and trying to track them down.

Headey commands the film with a surprisingly different approach. Practically no bullets are fired until the end, and it's more about the relationship she forges that is the real power to this story.

Her relationship with young Dean Scott Vazquez is rather touching. It may have been a much better exploration of their relationship if they were in a different scenario than running from inept hitmen and carrying a Macguffin about Bitcoin trading. Headey and Vazquez form a wonderful bond form the off, and at times rather emotive thanks to their acting ability. It's not an easy bond to make and it's more entertaining watching them learn to trust each other and understand what it means to care than it is with the villains after them.

It's not an action film as the poster and title may suggest, and while that works for the most part it suffers with any real thrills to compensate the otherwise ho-hum story and in-your-face morals about sinners and redemption. At least the eclectic score and soundtrack adds weight to proceedings. Just don't expect much else from this beside seeing Headey delivering a quality role.

Lena Headey makes this confusing mix of genres more watchable than it should be. It works more as a road-movie drama than action thriller, only staying for 90mins and then is forgotten, just like the plot.

'9 Bullets' is a co-production between Foresight Entertainment, Pop Films and Screen Media Films

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