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Anchor Bay presents
Handgun (1983)

"You can't possibly begin to understand history down here unless you know something about Colt revolvers."
- Larry Keeler (Clayton Day)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: January 14, 2003

Stars: Karen Young, Clayton Day
Other Stars: Suzie Humphreys, Ben Jones
Director: Tony Garnett

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: R for (nudity, language)
Run Time: 01h:39m:17s
Release Date: December 03, 2002
UPC: 013131233995
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-B-B- D+

DVD Review

Handgun (or Deep In The Heart) is a 1983 thought piece from BBC producer Tony Garnett that tackles the always prickly subject of rape, vengeance and handguns, all within the Wild West-like confines of modern day weapon-friendly Texas. The fact that a Brit is addressing stateside gun control issues is a moot point, as Garnett (who wrote and directed Handgun) treats the material with far more accuracy and realism than do similar, purely star-trip genre films like J-Lo's Enough. Ironically, both films center around women who learn to not only defend themselves, but also cut their hair short to reflect their new persona as vigilante.

The weight of this film falls squarely on the shoulders of Karen Young (Jaws: The Revenge), who stars as high school history teacher Kathleen Sullivan. Twenty-something Sullivan has just taken a position at a Texas high school, and she is a quiet, lonely woman whose life irreversibly changes when she is introduced to fluffy-haired lawyer Larry Keeler (Clayton Day) at a party. Keeler is a gun collector, and we find out early on that he is also some kind of a sleaze as we see him ogling (re: practically drooling) over a squad of high school cheerleaders. A couple of dates between Sullivan and Keeler suddenly end darkly as the seedy lawyer decides to try a gunpoint rape on his unsuspecting girlfriend.

Few elements in film are more uncomfortable to watch than rape, and while this one is not particularly graphic, it is all the more disturbing thanks to Young's mournful performance as Kathleen Sullivan. The moment is even more hard-hitting because it occurs a few scenes after a poignant long-distance telephone call between Sullivan and her parents, which ends with the lonely young teacher breaking down in tears. It is a sweet, well-acted scene by Young, and one that serves to establish her character's closness to her family, as well as her own loneliness. Garnett's noticeable lack of any musical score (save a few electronic dribbles from Mike Post) allows the scene, and most of the film for that matter, to play out almost like a documentary.

The second half of Handgun is where things get thought-provoking, as Garnett follows Sullivan's attempts to find solace in the Church, only to be told she should "forgive and pray" for the man who raped her. This leads her into the world of gun clubs, target practice, and ultimately an unconventional confrontation with the man who violated her. Young moves from naïve to shell-shocked to hunter with a natural, almost effortless quality, and the sudden change in her character's demeanor is easily the dramatic highpoint of the film.

The true strength of Handgun is without a doubt all Karen Young, with her gap-toothed grin and likeable, youthful exuberance that eventually gives way to hardened, vengeful determination. Garnett's script addresses gun issues that are still valid today, and the post-rape stumbling blocks that Young's character encounters are even more disheartening.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Not one of Anchor Bay's best efforts, but still a semi-respectable 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on what is essentially a small, early 1980s film. Daylight and well-lit interiors look fine, with a slightly faded color palette. Night scenes, including the dramatic final act, are a bit on the muddy side, however. On the plus side, I didn't notice any obvious print flaws, and the film itself is in very good condition.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Dolby Digital mono, in English, is the sole audio option here. The hiss-free track is typically flat (no surprise for mono), and likewise occasionally shrill at times. Dialogue, however, is clear, and always understandable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Not much in the way of supplementals. Other than a single theatrical trailer, Handgun sports 24 chapter breaks, but no subtitles.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

A great performance from Karen Young is reason enough to rent this slightly different rape vengeance drama from Tony Garnett. It's hard to believe Young went from this memorable role to the painful Jaws: The Revenge just a few short years later.

Worth a rental.


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