Insomnia File No. 3: Love is a Gun (dir by David Hartwell)

What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Love is a GunIf you were suffering from insomnia last night, at around 2 in the morning, you could have turned on Showtime and watched Love is a Gun, an odd little thriller from 1994.

How odd is Love Is a Gun?  It’s so odd that it stars Eric Roberts.  Roberts plays Jack, a photographer with problems.  His longtime girlfriend, Isabelle (Eliza Roberts), refuses to forgive him for cheating on her in the past and demands that he put a ring on her finger.  (Jack, for his part, has bought a ring but he keeps losing it.)  Jack is haunted by a reoccurring dream, in which he sees himself with a gun pointed at his head.  Isabelle says that the dream means that Jack needs to give her a ring.  Jack says it’s all about deja vu.

Jack gets a job working as a crime scene investigator.  He meets a detective who is so crazy that he’s played by R. Lee Ermey.  Jack takes pictures of dead bodies.  His colleagues make macabre jokes.  A local reporter offers to pay Jack for insider information.  Ermey asks Jacks to help cover up a crime.  Jack has visions of a line of well-dressed detectives shooting at him, firing squad style.  Eventually, Jack ends up sitting in a living room, an anonymous body at his feet, and watching a soap opera.  The actors on TV repeat dialogue that we’ve heard Jack and Isabelle say earlier in the film.  Jack starts to giggle and is soon laughing like a maniac.  A detective steps into the living room and asks Jack if he remembered to take a picture of the body in the bathroom.  “Oh yeah,” Jack says, “I forgot about that…”

Jack meets a model named Jean (Kelly Preston).  He takes pictures of her wearing a bridal gown and occasionally playing dead.  He realizes that he’s already seen the exact same pictures that he’s just taken.  Somebody left them in his locker at work but the images of Jean faded to black as soon as he looked at them.  He asks Jean if this is all an elaborate joke.  “Take the shot, Jack,” Jean replies.

Soon, Jean and Jack are having an affair.  Jean tells Jack that she has a strange rash.  Jack imagines that there’s a hole in Jean’s forehead.  A man claiming to be Jean’s husband shows up and wishes Jack luck because his wife is crazy.

Jack goes back to Isabelle.  Isabelle demands the ring.  Jack freaks out and returns to Jean.  Jean says she’s pregnant but then says she isn’t.  Jack giggles and then cries.  He goes back and forth between the two women, constantly begging for forgiveness as beads of sweat collect on his forehead.

Jack’s watch stops.  He tries to get it repaired.  An old man yells at him that his watch is cursed and cannot be repaired because it might infect all of the other watches in the man’s shop.

And, after all of that, the movie starts to get really weird…

Love Is A Gun does eventually offer up an explanation as to what’s going on.  It doesn’t make a bit of sense but somehow, the total incoherence of it all adds to this low-budget film’s charm.  Full of surreal images and intentionally odd dialogue, Love Is A Gun is compulsively watchable.

It also features a genuinely strange performance from Eric Roberts.  Roberts goes through the film with this goofy smile on his face, except for the scenes when Jack gets upset.  When Jack is upset, Roberts stomps his feet, jumps up and down, yells out every other line of dialogue, and contorts his body in some truly weird ways.  When he gets really angry, he grabs can after can of beer and furiously shakes them before opening, causing the beer to drench his face.  Eric Roberts’s lead performance is literally one of the oddest things that I have ever seen and it’s worth watching Love Is A Gun just to experience it.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. The Story of Mankind
  2. Stag