By the Gun (Blu-ray Review)

By the GunNick Tortano (Ben Barnes) is a mafia criminal whose life spirals out of control once he becomes a made man. With the lives of his loved ones at risk, including his girlfriend (Leighton Meester), he must decide what’s truly important to him.  BY THE GUN is directed by James Mottern and also stars Harvey Keitel, Toby Jones, Slaine, Kenny Wormald, Paul Ben-Victor, and Jay Giannone.  

By the Gun


By the Gun is the story of a young mafia enforcer named Nick Tortano (Ben Barnes) who dreams of being a made man one day. Of course at the rate he’s going he’ll be one foot in the grave by the time they open the books and let him in to the made men club. Harvey Keitel plays Salvatore Vitaglia, the Godfather of the local crew and the man who calls the shots in every which way there is. Nick is loyal to Salvatore and the crew but is also loyal to his girlfriend and family. This obviously clashes with what he wants out life. Whether he goes forth and makes to the upper ranks of the mob or gets out and lives his days as a normal guy.

By the Gun was strange in that it starred Ben Barnes of The Chronicles of Narnia films (Barnes played Prince Caspian) playing a wannabe tough guy. What’s ironic is that Nick’s character is anything but hardcore. The hardcore-ness is left to his best friend and right hand man George (Slaine) who does most of the important dirty work for Nick. It’s through sheer coincidence that Nick locates a high value target, executes, and is granted made man status. All does not go well for Nick, as other people in the neighborhood who used to spit on him while he was trying to come up have to back off and show some respect. To them Nick is still the young punk that wasn’t going anywhere and they’re not really buying his newfound status.

The film started out really slow and in typical fashion. Loser mafia underling was trying to get his stripes and graduate to the big time but was constantly being held back by obstacles and responsibilities. He’s finally given the keys to kingdom and can’t really go about his duties, because he doesn’t have the heart for killing. The constant push and pull of this predicament irked me somewhat, because it wasn’t really paced properly. It dragged in spots and in others it had me groaning. Still, action wise, By the Gun did hit its marks and for being a low budget independent release the amount of talent present is commendable.

Ben Barnes does a good enough job as a weakling gangster wannabe that later evolves into a somewhat tough guy and is almost unrecognizable in his new duds. He’s not in Narnia anymore. Keitel is Keitel and hits his marks and seems to be enjoying himself here, as does Toby Jones. Slaine as Nick’s right hand man has better material to work with when he’s actually enforcing and cleaning up after Nick. Leighton Meester as Nick’s girlfriend also hits her marks as the conflicted girlfriend who doesn’t know if she should stay or go. I don’t want to spoil anything but I will say that the last part of the film is actually better than the first part. I’ll leave it at that, because I didn’t see that ending coming. In fact, that’s the best part of the film…in a good way.


By the Gun


Encoding: AVC/MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: Contrast and sharpness levels are steady for the most part. There’s a nice layer of grain that works for the most part but some of the film does look a little to slick for its own good but I’ll let it slide.

Depth: There are a few instances where the image softens up a bit but other than that the image has some natural “pop.” I’m going to assume that a film like this (and due to budgetary concerns) was shot digitally.

Black Levels: Black levels were consistent in terms of crush and compression artifacts. I didn’t detect any.

Color Reproduction: The color wheel on this show goes for a more muted palette during exterior shots but warms up nicely once we’re inside. Salvatore’s office was particularly inviting. Those low-lit scenes really put one at ease.

Flesh Tones: Everyone looks as healthy as they can be even if the weather is a little bit on the nippy side. It’s all good.

Noise/Artifacts: Noise, debris, speckle, dirt, dust, etc., were not a problem during playback.


By the Gun


Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: By the Gun has its moments to shine in terms of sound quality. The various acts of violence on display come through loud and clear via the lossless Dolby TrueHD track. Gunfire levels are big and bright and brought to the forefront of this audio track.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE does its part by hanging back a bit and letting the natural bass levels do their thing. A flourish here and a flourish there is all that’s required by the subwoofer channel.

Surround Sound Presentation: The rear channels are active primarily during action scenes and scale back a bit during scenes of exposition. Ambience is handled well.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clean and clear and all of those accents come through with out a problem.

By the Gun


By the Gun is loaded up with two special features and those made up of a cast and crew commentary along with some deleted extended scenes. I’m surprised we even got this since Millennium releases don’t always have special features. I’ll take it.

  • Audio Commentary with Director James Mottern, Writer Emilio Mauro, Actor Ben Barnes – Here’s a very entertaining audio commentary by cast and crew and they talk about ever part of the production and get into the nitty gritty of filming a picture like this. Everyone speaks in a sincere fashion, which leads me to believe that everyone involved had a great time working on the project. Yeah, it’s a decent audio commentary track.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD) – Here’s a short segment of deleted scenes presented in high definition.

By the Gun


By the Gun started out as a typical low budget gangster affair that quickly changed its tune during the last 10 minutes and ended on a very surprising note. This Blu-ray has above average technical specifications and the commentary track and deleted scenes are above average. If you’re looking for a somewhat decent gangster picture, with some good talent, then give By the Gun a shot.







Order By the Gun on Blu-ray!

By the Gun


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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