Frank (Richard Norton, perhaps best known for Gymkata and The Octagon) is a former hockey player turned business man who just wants to sell his club and get the hell out of town. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for us) everything that can go wrong does go wrong.
Under the Gun is set in that odd alternate universe that so many 80s and 90s martial arts were set in; a world where everyone knows kung fu and uses it as often as possible. Men, women, cops, doormen, gangsters—everyone knows how to fight and is more than willing to throw down at the drop of a hat. Gangsters show up wielding dual Chinese broadswords, an idiotic pimp blows up his car with a grenade, and no one thinks about it twice.
In one of the more amusing battles, Frank sets the boots he’s wearing on fire—on purpose. Why? So he can kick people with flaming feet. Asking why things happen in this kind of film will only hurt your brain.
Despite the overall goofiness of the setup, the plot gets fairly serious and includes drug peddling, gunshots to the back of the head, people spitting out their bloody teeth, setups, and betrayals. There are loads of fight scenes—both gun fu and kung fu—and quite a few of them are pretty good, especially for a mid 90s Aussie martial arts film. Norton and several of his co-stars are fine martial artists and they get lots of chances to show that onscreen. There’s even a spiffy walking cane vs. hockey stick battle.
Can Frank hold things together long enough to collect his cash and run away to Mexico with his grumpy wife? Can he juggle dealing with renovations, angry triad mobsters, lethal accountants, stupid pimps, greedy whores, dirty cops, and angry airline attendants? Everyone wants a piece of his time, his money, and his business, and he’s only got one day to make everything work out.
If you can turn your brain off and enjoy Under the Gun for its kung fu madness, there’s a good time to be had despite (or maybe because of) the clichés. It’s a fine example of the sort of junky action flick that got me into bad action films in the first place; perfect for a weekend afternoon when you just want to be entertained by some people beating and shooting the crap out of each other. If that sort of thing doesn’t interest you, steer clear.