Gunmen's Blues

Gunmen's Blues is a 1981, independent short film written and directed by Eric Red. It stars Darwin Joston and Matt Dillon. The film is a modern-day western set in a Hoboken, New Jersey bar about a showdown between a notorious middle-aged hitman and the violent, impulsive, but inexperienced young thug who wants to kill him in order to bolster his own criminal reputation. Their confrontation leads to unexpected revelations and tragedy when the gunman realizes that his young challenger is the son he was forced to abandon years earlier.


A middle-aged man in a black suit (Darwin Joston) is the only patron in a Hoboken, New Jersey bar. The bartender tells the man that he has to close the bar in half and hour and then tries to enagage him in conversation. During their brief exchange, the man tells the bartender that he is a travelling salesman passing through Hoboken.

While the man is in the restroom, a teenager named Lake (Matt Dillon) bursts into the bar and demands that the bartender tell him where the man is. After the bartender tells him, Lake reveals that the middle-aged man is a notorious hitman on the F.B.I.'s "most wanted" list who is known as the "Man with No Name." Lake then orders a beer, but when the bartender refuses to serve him because he is underaged, the teenager pulls a gun out of his jacket, and, using a potato as a makeshift silencer, kills the bartender.

Hiding in the shadows of the dimly lit bar, Lake surprises the Man with No Name when he emerges from the restroom to pay his bar bill. Lake holds a gun to the older man's neck and reveals that he intends to kill him in order to bolster his own criminal reputation. The Man with No Name, seemingly unperturbed by this turn of events, calmly sits in a chair, smokes a cigarette, and talks with the teenager. During their conversation, the boy reveals his name, tells the older man that his father abandoned him when he was baby, and says that his father killed his mother.

Eventually, the Man with No Name catches Lake off-guard and knocks the young man out with one punch. However, Lake recovers and the two begin to fight. Lake pins the hitman to the floor and prepares to shoot him in cold blood. The Man with No Name then tells Lake that the only way the teenager will ever truly prove his mettle as a gunman is to kill him in a fair gun fight. Lake agrees, and the two men take their guns and face each other across the bar. The Man with No Name easily shoots the gun out of (and shoots through) Lake's hand and wins the showdown. He then shoots Lake's other hand but refrains from killing him. Completely defeated and humiliated, Lake slumps to the floor.

Having earlier recognized that Lake is his long-lost son, the Man with No Name reveals this fact to Lake. Although Lake is doubtful at first, he is convinced when the Man with No Name pulls out his wallet and produces a picture of Lake's mother.

The Man with no Name then recounts the true circumstances surrounding the death of Lake's mother. To wit, the Man with No Name fell in love with and married Lake's mother, got a legitimate job, and gave up his life of crime. The couple then had Lake. One night, while the Man with No Name was out getting a pack of cigarettes, a stranger came to challenge him to a gun fight, but, not finding him home, murdered Lake's mother instead. The Man with No Name then tells Lake that the brutal murder of his beloved wife not only forced him back into a life of crime, but also forced him to abandon the infant Lake.

Finally reunited, the Man with No Name and his son embrace, but their reunion is short-lived. Hearing the sirens of approaching police cars outside, the Man with No Name decides to save Lake from a prison sentence and a ruined life by taking the blame for the bartender's murder. The Man with No Name quickly re-arranges the crime scene to look as though he had just attempted a botched robbery. He then tells Lake that he can be anything he wants to be but also tries to dissuade him from following in his footsteps. When the police break down the door, the Man with No Name tells them that he robbed the bar and tried to rob Lake. He then winks at Lake, opens fire on the police, and dies in a hail of bullets while Lake looks on in horror.

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