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Shoot First, and Pray You Live

by on July 14, 2009
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Shoot First 2A wonderfully witty, ascerbic Western, “Shoot First and Pray You Live” looks something like you’d imagine a Tarantino cowboy movie would.

The story is the legend of Red Pierre (Jeff Hepher), who is seeking vengeance on Bob McGurk (James Russo), the man who killed his father (Jim Gaffigan) and raped his mother.

The film moves in a non-linear style, showing an event, then rewinding back to show the entire context of the scene’s significance, allowing the film’s narrative to unwind not unlike Tarantino’s masterpiece “Pulp Fiction.” It’s a bit of a gimmick, but it works for the most part.

Gaffigan has a small part in the film, and a surprisingly non-comedic one. He draws a laugh or two, but he’s a curious, though hardly disappointing, choice for this role. He still provides a hint of humor in dialog, but he’s more or less the straight man.

Russo is no stranger to playing a cowboy or a villain, as he played the cowardly sheriff in Kevin Costner’s underrated flick “Open Range.” He anchors this film, providing a foreboding presence.

Director Lance Doty creates a tongue-in-cheek bloodbath that manages to maintain the integrity of the film while offering a gentle prodding of the genre. There’s not an excess of gore, but there is some overblown blood spray from bullet wounds, and the entire attitude of the piece seems to suggest they had a lot of fun on set.

It harkens back to the old “spaghetti westerns” of Sergio Leone in tone, with an almost, but not quite, exaggerated facials, and a long build of tension during a gunbattle, where each man dares the other to make the first move.

The film’s climax is appropriately Western as well, with just a tad bit of Greek tragedy thrown in for good measure. The reveal is telegraphed a bit, but it still a fun bit of cinema.

“Shoot First” is “Kill Bill” crossed with “Unforgiven,” a tumbleweed of blood, dust and spurs.

Rating: 3 ½ Yaps out of 5

Shoot First And Pray You Live Trailer from Lance Doty on Vimeo.