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Review: 'Guns, Girls and Gambling' doesn't add up to fun

'Guns, Girls and Gambling,' a crime and double-crosses movie, has Gary Oldman and Christian Slater impersonating Elvis as it imitates '90s Tarantino.

December 14, 2012|By Mark Olsen
  • "Elvis Elvis" (Gary Oldman) ponders his fate as he stares off into the desert in "Guns, Girls and Gambling."
"Elvis Elvis" (Gary Oldman) ponders his fate as he stares off… (Universal )

The very notion of Gary Oldman as an Elvis impersonator sounds like it alone should be worth the price of admission for "Guns, Girls and Gambling." Alas, his turn is not as wildly committed as one might hope, and the movie overall is similarly a promising letdown.

A strangely anachronistic crime and double-crosses picture — is there something more current to rip off than '90s Tarantino? — the film is needlessly flat, never much achieving the kick and surprise it aspires to. A man who introduces himself as John Smith (Christian Slater) finds himself somewhat stranded at an Indian casino, where he passes the time by entering an Elvis impersonation contest.

This sets him on a course that intersects with the robbery of a rare Native American artifact and a long-simmering feud between the casino owners and a local power broker (Powers Boothe), as well as a mysterious female killer (Helena Mattsson). Besides the underworld setting and needlessly tricky timeline, drawing out the Tarantino connection is the fact that Slater and Oldman were costars in the Tarantino-scripted "True Romance," with Slater wearing Elvis-style sunglasses as he did in that earlier film just to make the point extra clear. (There's also even a signature Tarantino from-inside-a-car-trunk shot.)

Trying to pull together some sort of modern-day cowboys-and-Indians theme wrapped in a knowing crime-genre playfulness is harder than it might seem, and writer-director Michael Winnick isn't quite up to the challenge. A movie first and foremost about other movies, a derivative of derivatives, "Guns, Girls and Gambling" is like a losing hand at cards: It could have been a winner, but just isn't.

mark.olsen@latimes.com

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'Guns, Girls and Gambling'

MPAA rating: Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing: At the Laemmle Noho 7

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