When local gangsters bump off her neighbours, retiring burlesque dancer Gypsy (Lena Headey) rather inexplicably sets off cross country to deliver the only survivor, a young boy called Sam (Dean Scott Vasquez), into his uncle’s reluctant care. Part road movie, part redemption story, 9 Bullets never quite decides on what type of film it wants to be.
Much of the problem relates to the confused tone. Sole writing credits are attributed to director Gigi Gaston, and yet the script feels collaborative, like several different ideas and themes are simultaneously struggling for prominence. There are elements of an erotic thriller: nipple tassels make an uncomfortable early appearance before an ill-judged, somewhat seedy sex scene. An attempt at light humour involving the theft of an already stolen car misses the mark, and the emotional weight of bearing witness to your entire family being bloodily murdered is quickly forgotten.
Throughout Headey works hard to instil some essence of credibility – any and all of 9 Bullets’ positives can be attributed to her - but her attempts are repeatedly undermined by an incoherent narrative delivered through a cliché-ridden supporting cast; Sam Worthington’s cowboy gangster boss is woefully underwritten.
Headey deserves better. Gypsy is little more than a pale representation of superficially strong and intelligent female characters – retiring from the exotic dancing world she is writing the story of her life – defined more by their circumstances rather than being given any depth of character themselves.
You get the sense of a missed opportunity as Headey tries her best to smoulder and smirk à la Cersei Lannister, but her efforts become lost in this derivative and dull thriller.9 Bullets is out now on DVD and digital.