If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Paul Haggis, the creator of Crash, ought to feel honored by American Gun, an equally-evocative offering from first-time director Aric Avelino. While this film also features interwoven storylines and an ensemble cast, it focuses squarely on the proliferation of firearms in this country as opposed to the outbreak of tensions across color lines.
The plot unfolds as a trio of parallel plotlines, with each approaching the theme from a different angle. Perhaps the most compelling one revolves around a Chicago high school principal (Forest Whitaker) so devoted to playing surrogate father to his troubled, revolver-toting student body that it's taking a toll on his marriage.
Then there's Carl (Donald Sutherland), a gun shop owner in Charlottesville, Virginia who never gave a second thought about his line of work till his granddaughter (Linda Cardellini) falls victim to a violent street crime. And (Marcia Gay Harden) is a single-mom in suburban Oregon who finds herself ostracized by her neighbors because her son went postal and massacred classmates on his high school campus.
American Gun is far less gory than one might expect, given its subject-matter. For, in essence, this is a dialogue-driven production blessed with a bounty of well-developed characters. Forest Whitaker turns in a typically searing performance, as does Donald Sutherland and Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden (for Pollock). Another standout is Garcelle Beauvais, who meets the challenge of playing opposite Whitaker, as Sara, a wife willing to draw a line in the sand for the sake of her son's relationship with his daddy.
A moving morality play indicting this nation for its ongoing love affair with the Second Amendment.