Hot Guys With Guns

TLA Releasing,

Doug Spearman

Marc Anthony
Brian McArdle,
Darryl Stephens,
Trey McCurley,
Alan Blumenfeld,
Joan Ryan

Unrated, 105 minutes

out to kill review

Out To Kill

Guest House Films,

Rob Williams

Scott Sell,
Rob Moretti,
Mark Strano,
Tom Goss,
Christopher Patrino

Unrated, 82 minutes

Guilty Pleasures
by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online April, 2015

Every now and then I like to turn off my brain and these next two titles fall into my guilty pleasure zone. Hot Guys With Guns is everything that the title says. It is a goofy but likable send-up of private eye movies from writer / director Doug Spearman (Noah’s Arc, Old Dogs & New Tricks).

Marc Anthony Samuel stars as Danny Lohman, an actor/waiter who is auditioning for a crime TV show.  He is taking a night class for private investigators in the hopes that it will give him the edge he needs to land the part.  Meanwhile, his rich ex-boyfriend, Pip Armstrong (Brian McArdle) wakes up after a sex party to discover that everyone was drugged and then robbed while they were unconscious. He asks Danny if he can help out with a little detective work, and both men find themselves getting in way over their heads.

It’s clear from the beginning that none of this is meant to be taken seriously. The first clue is the deadpan opening narration, which is straight out of the old Dragnet TV show. The animated credits spoof James Bond; a gunman turns to shoot inside of a circle, running silhouettes dodge flying bullets, and finally a pair of private eyes turn into two bickering queens. The mystery being investigated is this: a pair of “sex party bandits” have infiltrated and robbed a series of orgies that were hosted (we learn later) by some of the major gay players in Hollywood. The thefts were never reported to the police because, you know… scandals, the closet, stuff like that. Pip wants his stolen watch back and he is able to easily charm his ex into helping him out. Our two amateur sleuths, with the help of Danny’s crusty night school instructor, try their inept best to crack the case.

The film is anchored by the love story (of sorts) between Danny and Pip. Danny is clearly still in love with his ex. As for Pip… let’s just say that he gets distracted easily. Still, he seems to harbor feelings for his ex as well - or at least a certain amount of guilt. Pip is a spoiled rich boy who still lives with his racist, alcoholic mother – albeit in his own wing of the mansion – and she gives him an allowance. Calling their relationship co-dependent is an understatement. It is implied, on more than one occasion, that Mommy doesn’t want her son dating an African American (Danny). Danny is well aware of this too. He’s also jealous of Pip’s new boyfriend, a white man named Robin (Trey McCurley) who meets with Mommy’s approval.

Tongue is planted firmly in cheek for most of the film (and it is often laugh out loud funny) but there are serious undercurrents as well. Hot Guys With Guns is an indictment of the power structure in Hollywood with Pip trotted out front and center as an example of spoiled entitlement. (While getting beat up, Pip tells his assailant that his jeans cost $300 and the floor is filthy.) When we later learn the identity of the “sex party bandits,” we’re actually shocked by their tragic backstory. Darryl Stephens plays against type as one of the bad guys, exuding equal parts sex appeal and menace. There are times when the humor vanishes and Hot Guys With Guns is often quite suspenseful. Watch for a clever chase sequence where Danny loses a masked gunman in the West Hollywood Halloween Festival. The bumbling antics of the two leads offsets the violence - which is kept to a minimum.

The rest of the film is gleefully over the top, indulging itself in private eye clichés. Some of the dialogue is deliberately cheesy, like when Pip tells Danny that he looked “hot with that big, thick gun… just like Shaft.”  I liked the fanciful scenes in which Danny imagines himself as a smooth private dick named Marcus Swift. Marc Anthony Samuel delivers a very likable performance as Danny, often playing the protagonist as an excited kid instead of like a cop from a bad 70s Blaxploitation flick. Brian McArdle is equal parts sexy and annoying as Pip. He also looks like the 1960s James Bond and this was probably deliberate. Alan Blumenfeld is also a hoot as the older private eye who keeps getting our boys out of trouble. Although supposedly straight, he somehow owns a pair of chaps to wear when they infiltrate a leather party.

Hot Guys With Guns is loaded with in-jokes about the film industry. There’s a cute moment at a fundraising party where fans of the web series, Old Dogs & New Tricks, will recognize talent agent Nathan Adler and his much younger boyfriend in an amusing cameo. Most of the humor works, though the scenes with Pip’s mother get annoying fast. (At one point she crawls into bed with Pip and his boyfriend while whining, “Mommy needs a Xanax.”) The film is a little longer than it needs to be but it's slickly made and doesn't look like it was made on a shoestring. The chemistry and the banter between the two leads is terrific; their comic timing is the stuff of great screwball comedy. This would make a great popcorn or date movie.

More on Doug Spearman:
Old Dogs & New Tricks

Darryl Stephens also appears in:
Boy Culture

Another Gay Movie

Marc Anthony Samuel, Leon-Acord Whiting and Ryland Shelton also appeas in:
Old Dogs & New Tricks



I was expecting more from this next title and so I’m listing this one as a guilty pleasure as well. I’ve been following the films of writer/director Rob Williams for almost ten years and his new erotic thriller, Out To Kill (2014), is a change of pace for him. After watching his pleasing efforts at both comedy (The Men Next Door, Make the Yuletide Gay) and drama (role/play, 3 Day Weekend), I wish I could say that mysteries were also his forte.

Out To Kill’s central premise is interesting but never quite catches fire. The DVD box asks the question: “Who killed Justin Jaymes?” The setting is an all-gay loft complex in Tampa, Florida. Justin Jaymes (Tom Goss) is hot and he knows it. He is a narcissistic musician who likes to lounge in the courtyard pool naked, knowing that everyone is watching. He is disliked by most of the lofts’ tenants, making all of them suspects when he is found dead, floating in the pool.

Jim Noble (Scott Sell), the new guy who just moved into the complex, is a private investigator. Justin’s best friend, Gene (Rob Moretti) and his partner, Henry, were initially trying to hook Jim up with Justin, but now they hire him to look into the young man’s death. The police have ruled it a drug overdose, but everyone suspects foul play. While searching for clues, Jim learns more and more sordid details about Justin’s past. He also strikes up a relationship with Vic Barnaby (Mark Strano), a shy dentist whom everyone calls The Vicar. He learns that Vicar, and everyone else, has been lying about their alibis because they all attended a sex party in one of the lofts. As it stands, any one of them could have snuck away, un-noticed, and killed Justin.

This could have been (at least) great junky fun – and at times, it is – but the first half of Out To Kill is curiously flat, and completely devoid of any suspense.  It’s hard to buy lead actor Scott Sell as a private eye and, to be honest, the mystery just isn’t that interesting. Part of the problem is Justin’s character. Yes, he is arrogant and full of himself but – frankly – he’s not that much of a bitch. Since he’s not exactly Joan Collins on Dynasty, I can’t buy into the idea that he is so despised that anyone in the complex could want him dead. This isn’t “who shot JR?” by a long shot.

There are nods to Hitchcock – like the wheelchair-bound voyeur everyone calls “Mr. Rear Window” who provides an important clue. Things begin to get interesting when an unexpected third act twist occurs, followed by another one that pulls the rug out from under everyone’s feet. (Unless you’re a longtime mystery buff and figured it out. Several people posting on Amazon did.) I liked the surprise, and I didn’t expect it, but then it was ruined by one of those Agatha Christie-style endings where someone explains everything that happened, rendering all of it anticlimactic.

It doesn’t help that the acting, almost across the board, is often stiff. But, to be fair to the actors, I blame some of the dialogue. Despite flaws, I did like a lot of Out To Kill and I want to give credit where credit is due. The film gets less forced as it goes along and most of the stiffness vanishes in the second half. Rob Moretti delivers a very moving and nuanced performance as Gene and I felt sorry for him at the end. He’s a butch mother hen and has most of the film’s best lines. (When asked for his alibi, he replies, “internet porn and a sling.”)  The movie is slickly photographed and looks great. There is also abundant eye candy; wait until you see the three Steves. Scott Sell, who was outstanding in The Last Straight Man, is very easy on the eyes as Jim. Ditto for Tom Goss as Justin and his oft-showcased pecs.

The camaraderie between the neighbors, coupled with their trusting natures (no one locked their doors before the murder), gives the film a pleasant vibe, and the supporting cast adds background color. And lots of gratuitous eye candy. All in all, Out To Kill is a light, mostly comic thriller, not without its charms, and I’m probably being too picky. I can enjoy it as a guilty pleasure, but here lies the rub. Unlike Hot Guys With Guns, Out To Kill wasn’t meant to be a spoof. Director Rob Williams also tries to give his goofy thriller some depth but the right balance wasn’t found. Still, it’s a sexy gay take on an old proven genre and we all like to know who killed Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick.

More on Rob Williams;
Long Term Relationship
Back Soon
3 Day Weekend
Make The Yuletide Gay
Role / Play
The Men Next Door

Scott Sell also appears in;
The Last Straight Man

More on Rob Moretti;