A movie review ©2015 Robert Long II
(photos copyright 2015 One-Eyed Horse Productions)
Starring Brian St August, Erin Heilman, LaDon Hart Hall, Sam Lukowski, Jim Osborn, Susan Osborn, Jason Brown, John C. Bailey, Richard Cutting, Connie Lamothe, Johnny Alonso, Lee Doll and Eric Roberts
Special Visual Effects by Craig Herron
Executive Produced by Earl Klemm, William Blewett, Diane Blewett
Written and Directed by Wayne Shipley
INTERNET SYNOPSIS: It might have been 1895, but the country around Singletree, Montana, was still as wild as ever … The county had a problem with rustlers, and Cyrus McCall, who ran Big Sky, strung barbed wire between his land and that of his neighbor, Maggie Carter, to stop them. From then on, Maggie had to herd her cows an extra two miles before they could reach water, and that took time and manpower she couldn’t spare. Worse, it seemed to suggest that Maggie was in league with the rustlers, because they always pushed stolen stock across her land. Maggie promised hell if the fences weren’t taken down. And hell is just what she and McCall got … though in the end it had nothing to do with rustling, but everything to do with a past that wouldn’t stay buried …
An ambitious widow vows “There will be hell to pay” when a prominent Montana rancher puts up a barbed wire fence between their properties.
Okay – so the movie starts early 1900s with Brian St August’s character Simon Doubleday, a retired reporter coming back to a ghost town – Singletree, Montana – to remember the past. Inside an abandon newspaper office he starts reflecting on things from thirty years ago.
We go to the past where Singletree is celebrating 25 years as a town with a brass band and a baseball game. Coming in on the train is University schooled Kate Carter (portrayed by Jennifer Connelly look alike Erin Heilman) who comes home to visit mother Maggie Carter (LaDon Hart Hall) and see her troubled brother Ned (Sam Lukowski).
Maggie is a stubborn hard-headed cattle rancher and wishes her daughter would take the easy life of marrying a rich and good looking guy that has his eye on Kate. Of course Kate – being young and a bit clueless – wants to go about life the hard way.
Now on a ranch adjacent to the Carter homestead is the home of the McCalls. Cyrus (Jim Osborn) and Rachel (Susan Osborn) McCall have a successful ranch going with their bit of a hot head/lunkhead son Cy (played by Jason Brown) helping out. Cy has been known to get into fights at the bar. I get the feeling that sparks – for some reason – will ignite between him and Kate Carter.
So the McCalls put up barbed wire between the properties because cattle has gone missing by rustlers. Maggie Carter doesn’t like the barbed wire as it takes her herd way out of the way now to get to water. A Cattle Rustler Caleb Earl Bateman (John C. Bailey) gets involved in the middle of all this and there is bloodshed.
Wow – this movie is impressive! Wayne Shipley has once again visually and audibly put on the screen his love of the Old West. The fact that it takes place in Montana and is filmed (for the most part) in Maryland is a beautiful piece of sleight-of-hand.
The story is chock full of drama. There are complicated family dynamics on display; greed, lust, and betrayal. There is a main plot that is fed by two to three subplots that make up this legendary tale. There is a tremendous amount of emotional pain behind the plot that unfolds on the screen.
The acting is great across the board, with the stand out being veteran actor Eric Roberts in the 3rd act. All of the lead performers equate themselves well and are believable. They crawled into the skin of their characters and lived the parts.
Along with all the fine acting and drama, the viewer gets a lot of action. There is a lot of gun play and fighting included. The stunts are pretty wild, with people falling from high places, bodies trampled by horses, and people flying through windows. There is a literal cliff-hanger towards the end of the story as well!
The production value is amazing. The production design and visual effects were supervised by Craig Herron and he does an incredible job. The small town exterior sets built on Wayne Shipley’s property is Old West authentic, as is the CGI and green screen work done to add landscapes just as breath-taking. You can find a behind the scenes video for it HERE.
The music, costuming and makeup is letter perfect. Many kudos need to go to Wayne Shipley and the entire crew he assembled to help him create this love letter to the Westerns he grew up with. This has the look and feel of a multimillion dollar budget, rather than the $150,000 budget it was shot on.
I could find very little to criticize about DAY OF THE GUN. About the only thing I can say is that – running at two hours and eight minutes – it runs a little too thick with the visual atmosphere and setting up of the time and place it is based on. Most of this happens at the beginning of the movie, so after the first 15 minutes the main plot and pace of the story settles into the right rhythm.
The DVD extras: I would have loved – LOVED – a commentary track with Wayne Shipley on the making of the movie. Unfortunately it does not have one. It does have a couple of short segments called TALES OF THE WILD WEST, which are fun docudramas that are extended scenes from the movie. These are well done and run about 30 minutes a piece. One of them that involves a bank robbery didn’t make it onto the DVD, but can be found online HERE. Check it out.
THE FINAL RATING: DAY OF THE GUN gets a well deserved 9 out of 10 gun notches. Wayne Shipley knocks it out of the park for a 2nd time and it is a pleasure to watch. If you like Westerns, this independent film comes as a solid recommendation. It is released by Monarch Home Video. Pick up you copy of it HERE.