A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gun City, known in Spanish as La Sambra de la Ley, is a violent, disturbing shoot-'em-up set during a time of early 20th-century political and military turmoil in Spain. Corruption among leadership of the police, military, and government trickles down, setting the tone for an equally amoral underworld to violently rule cities hand in hand with wealthy industrialists. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bastard," "bitch," whore," "f--got," and "ass." Women dance suggestively at a night club in skimpy costumes and double as prostitutes run by the management. A woman tells her boss she's pregnant and wants to quit dancing at his club and turning tricks but he insists she have another abortion and get back to work. Dancers wear flesh-colored outfits designed to make them look nearly naked. A man in debt to a mobster "gives" his 13-year-old daughter in exchange for his debt. It's suggested the girl will become a prostitute and she's later seen, fully clothed, in a girl-on-girl porn shoot. A sadistic cop tries to get a woman to talk as he starts to rape her. Her underwear is seen. Two clothed men pet each other. A peaceful girl protesting against low wages for women is beaten to death by police breaking up the protest. Many bodies are seen killed by gunfire. A man is seen murdered in the street with his throat bleeding where it was cut with piano wire. Several people are shot at point-blank range. A train is robbed at night by armed men who ambush and kill the train's guards. A man is shot in the head. Adults smoke cigarettes constantly, drink alcohol, and snort cocaine.
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What's the story?
GUN CITY is a long, complex tale about 1920s Spain and the deep corruption affecting its police, businesses, government, and military. When a train transport of military weapons is hijacked and the weapons are stolen, an investigator from Madrid named Anibal Uiarte (Luis Tosar) arrives in Barcelona to help the police find the perpetrators and the weapons. Anibal immediately is introduced to police who are sadistic, inept, and largely uninterested in justice but who spend most of their energy collecting protection money from equally corrupt businessmen. One, who calls himself the "Baron" (Manolo Solo), runs a fancy club with prostitutes doubling as scantily clad dancing girls. He's working with a wealthy factory owner to suppress strikes by so-called anarchists who are peacefully protesting in the quest for fairer wages. After the police kill some protestors, younger hot heads want to buck older, calmer leadership to take up arms and escalate the violence. Allies betray allies and good guys (cops) are actually bad guys while bad guys reveal themselves to be on the right side of morality and history.
Is it any good?
This movie includes many clichés taken straight out of better gangster films, including The Godfather and Goodfellas. Teens old enough to bear the violence and sadism may find this too long and convoluted to follow. Characters threaten each other and then collaborate with each other. Anarchists, at first portrayed as working-class heroes trying to fight peacefully for better workplace conditions, turn on allies, showing themselves to be as power-hungry, violent, and corrupt as those they hope to unseat. Most troubling is that it may require substantial knowledge of early 20th-century Spanish history to truly understand the motivations of several key characters. Gun City suggests that politicians wanted bloodbaths in cities, allowing them to justify in the eyes of public opinion the presence of the military on city streets, ending with a military takeover of the Spanish government.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about patterns that occur in history. A man trying to uncover corruption and save innocent lives tries to reason with those bent on stooping to violence. What does the movie say about the connection between violence and corruption?
One protester against unfair labor practices insists that if striking workers use violence against their oppressors then they'll provide the oppressors with reasons to completely destroy them. Why do you think this is good or bad advice?
How could you learn more about the historical period when Gun City takes place?
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