Nude Nuns with Big Guns
by Jason Coffman
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The post-Grindhouse/neo-“grindhouse” movement has resulted in a wide variety of tributes and homages to the glory days of exploitation. However, none of them have borrowed so nakedly from Tarantino and (especially) Rodriguez as Joseph Guzman’s Nude Nuns with Big Guns. From the time the first credit rolls, it is clear that Guzman is worshipping at the altar of Robert Rodriguez: even his production company’s logo calls to mind the flaming Troublemaker Studios logo! Once the film begins, any lingering doubt as to Guzman’s intentions are quickly put to rest. Surf guitar, blaring horns, freeze-frame title cards introducing each character— we’re deeply in post-Tarantino territory here. The only question is whether Nude Nuns with Big Guns brings anything new to the table to make it stand out in the crowded exploitation market.
Sister Sarah (Asun Ortega) is traded by Father Bernardo (Maz Siam) to Chavo (David Castro) after a drug deal goes sour. Chavo gets Sarah hooked on heroin and employs her as a prostitute, where she is nearly beaten to death by the vicious Brother John (Bill Obert, Jr.). Chavo decides Sarah is damaged goods and wants her disposed of, a task he issues to Mr. Foo (Maxie J. Santillian, Jr.). Foo takes Sarah to his home, cleans her up and nurses her back to health. When she is well again, she explains to Foo that she was given a mission from God while she was on the verge of death: to clean up the church, and to kill the corrupt men and women who have turned it into a front for a powerful criminal organization involved in drugs and prostitution.
Sarah gathers weapons and heads out on her holy mission, quickly gaining attention from powerful enemies. Father Carlittos (Perry D’Marco), nervous after hearing word of Sarah’s exploits, teams up with Chavo and his brutal gang, Los Muertos, in hopes of putting a stop to her slaughter. Sarah saves her lover Sister Angelina (Aycil Yeltan) in a raid on a church packaging drugs for distribution. All the pieces are in place for a violent struggle between one-woman army Sister Sarah and the combined forces of Los Muertos and the Catholic church, desperate to stop her before she can cripple their powerful organization. This virtually guarantees a good time, right?
Well, no. Guzman borrows liberally from Tarantino and Rodriguez, but he also draws on some of the more unpleasant aspects of the 1970s exploitation films. There’s a reason that Tarantino and Rodriguez don’t use rape and blatant racism in the same way those films did, but Guzman apparently feels that those things are sorely missing in their formula. The film’s only black character, Kickstand (Xango Henry), seems to exist for the specific purpose of periodically raping women on Chavo’s orders. These scenes in particular give Nude Nuns with Big Guns a sleazy, mean-spirited edge that is too harshly misanthropic to be enjoyable. The film revels in cruelty throughout, and is not ridiculous or cartoonish enough to take the edge off. Playing this material straight-faced is a serious misstep, one that makes the film difficult to sit through.
None of this is much of a surprise considering Guzman’s previous (and debut) feature was the even nastier low-budget rape-revenge flick Run! Bitch Run!. If there’s anything to be said for Nude Nuns with Big Guns, it’s that it is a definite step up technically from that film. Not that even that is saying much, given Run! Bitch Run! is an ugly, barely competent shot-on-video feature. Guzman reuses some lines from that film in Nude Nuns with Big Guns, which makes sense given that virtually everything else in the film is blatantly borrowed from somewhere else, too. The film even ends midway through Sarah’s mission— it’s amazing that there isn’t a “Volume One” tacked on to the film’s title for just one more reference to something else you’d rather be watching. Nude Nuns with Big Guns is nothing if not proof that if you’re going to steal from other films and filmmakers, you should make sure to steal the right stuff.
Image Entertainment releases Nude Nuns with Big Guns on Blu-ray and DVD on 14 February 2012. Special features include the original short film Nude Nuns with Big Guns (that is shown in parts in Run! Bitch Run!) and trailers for the feature.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and is a regular contributor to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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