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STUDIO: Lions Gate
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
• Cast interviews
An undead gunslinger must kill an undead gang of outlaws because undead.
Written and directed by Andrew Goth, starring Wesley Snipes, Diamond Dallas Page, and Kevin Howarth.
After a long delay, Gallowwalkers finally hit DVD shelves. And it certainly wasn’t worth the wait. It’s a jumbled mess of spectacular violence and terrible dialogue. Snipes delivers a stiff, confused performance and besides a fight with a pro wrestler, the film is a sluggish bore.
Gallowwalkers has a long, rich history in development hell. The horror-western hybrid first came to the populace’s attention way back in 2005, when it was announced that Chow Yun-fat would be starring as a zombie-hunting bounty hunter. Back then the film was going under the title Wretched. That fell through and Wesley Snipes (Demolition Man) was brought on board as the lead. Filming began in Nanibia and then it turned out Snipes owed the IRS about $12 million in taxes. The actor had forgot to file his tax returns from 1999 through 2004. Must’ve been too busy filming The Art of War – totally understandable.
After flying back to the States and being released on a $1 million bond, Snipes returned to Africa to finish shooting. Of course, later he was sentenced to federal prison and was finally released this summer. So filming wrapped on Gallowwalkers (or, GallowWalkers) about six years ago. It rotted on the shelf until being picked it up for distribution and dumped onto home video by Lions Gate. Was the long delay worth the wait?
On the surface it sounds awesome. Snipes stars as Aman (get it?), an undead gunslinger out for revenge against the five outlaws who raped his lover. He paints his face white and finds the outlaws locked in prison. Like fish in a barrel, he shoots them all. Some tough guy, huh? A vaguely explained force known as “Skull Mountain” situated between the gates of heaven and hell (I think) allows the outlaws to be raised from the dead. Snipes narrates most of the exposition, but it’s all really ambiguous and faux esoteric – so don’t expect to get any answers concerning the zombies.
Also, Snipes delivers the narration in a baffling, wannabe stoic manner with all kinds of weird intonations. It’s way more humorous than engrossing. I have no idea what his direction was or if he just showed up on set and started talking like that, but it’s hysterical. When he explains his story to a brash young gunslinger named “Fabulos” (not kidding), Snipes says amazing shit like “For the sake of the unborn” and “For one of them grows inside of her.” I have no idea what he’s going for in this role, but Snipes has definitely been better. Maybe the tax-fraud jitters stunted his performance.
The outlaw leader, Kansa (Kevin Howarth) is a pretty great villain. When he was still alive, he encourages his son to rape – “Become a man!” After he’s undead, he’s wicked into skinning people and giving real menacing speeches. Howarth definitely hams it up and helps elevate the film to a tolerable level of B-movie fun. The rest of his motley band is made up of characters like Slip Knot, Kisscut, and Skullbucket, played by yoga guru Diamond Dallas Page. There’s also a guy who discusses the benefits of wearing lizard skin on your head versus human skin. Lizard skin is good in the sun up to a month!
While there’s a colorful cast of characters to inhabit his film, writer/director Andrew Goth cripples them with a miserable script. The dialogue, no matter how it’s delivered, is atrocious. There’s really only two action scenes in the film and the rest of the 90 minute running time is made up of languidly paced flashbacks and a whole lotta nothing. About 15 minutes could’ve been cut to make a leaner, meaner movie.
At least when nothing is going on, it’s shot wonderfully. There’s a clear Sergio Leone influence in the tremendous wide shots and close ups. It all looks fantastic and the African landscape heightens the dry immersion. All pretty landscapes aside, the fight between Snipes and Diamond Dallas Page is the highlight of the film. It’s a down and dirty slugfest in a slaughterhouse with DDP using his girth to throw Snipes around like a piece of trash. It’s certainly a fun scene after so much self-important blabbing by Snipes. All of the violence in the film is set at an appropriate level of ridiculous. Lots of heads get ripped off with spines dangling and heads get blown off left and right. In that department the film manages to be fun as well.
So was it worth the wait? Naw. Typically movies sit on the shelf for years for a reason (You’re Next being the exception), which is usually they suck. GallowWalkers sucks. If it was shorter, didn’t take itself so seriously and just hammed it up the whole time, it could be a fun movie. Instead it’s a bland, achingly paced disaster with Snipes portraying a stiff, silly-speaking hero. Here’s hoping he comes back with a vengeance in Expendables 3.
All that’s included is a 10-minute collection of cast interviews with some behind the scenes footage thrown in.
Rating: Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars