MUBI Movies: Martin McDonagh’s SIX SHOOTER

All aboard the misery train.

MUBI is a streaming service catering to cinephiles who believe in quality over quantity. Each day, MUBI adds a new film to its library, where it will stay for 30 days, after which it circulates out and gives room for another new entry. Throughout 2018, we will highlight one MUBI movie per month to help illustrate the catalog’s breadth and importance.

We generally don’t look at short films with the same reverence given to features. Actually, most of us rarely look at shorts at all. Which is a shame, as it’s an art form wholly unique from features, utilizing a different set of rules for tone and pacing. When they are good, they tend to be very, very good.

And sometimes they pop up with their own bit of clout. Such is the case with Six Shooter (which is playing on MUBI right now). Not only does the short serve as something of a statement of artist intent from Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri writer-director Martin McDonagh (for those not familiar with his plays, anyway), but it also features helpful familiar faces such as Brendan and Domhnall Gleeson.

Brendan Gleeson stars as a man who has just learned that his wife has died, likely due to an illness. He takes a train home. Along with him for the ride is a couple mourning over the crib death of their baby. Add to this mixture a loud, foul-mouthed youth with no respect for anyone’s personal space or privacy, and you more or less have a recipe for some interesting human interactions.

The performances in Six Shooter are great across the board, but Brendan Gleeson (I can’t just call him Gleeson because there are two of them!) puts everything into his quietly emotional performance. The script doesn’t give him a lot to say but his grieving is all there in his face, as is his sorrow for the couple and the strange amusement he finds from this horrible kid’s rude antics. Even with this brief running time, it's a performance of great care and subtlety. 

McDonagh’s direction is somewhat on the basic side this early on (though he does very well visually telling a story in which a cow explodes), but his script hallmarks are all here, which shouldn’t surprise anyone given how developed he already had them at this point. There is a ton of swearing, sudden violence and dark hilarity at every turn. The short ends with a bit that will make you laugh, then feel pretty guilty about it, then probably laugh again, depending on who you're watching with and whether or not they'll judge your soul.

At roughly thirty minutes in length, Six Shooter has a bit more meat on its bones than most shorts. We’re given plenty of time to get invested in Brendan Gleeson’s character and the curious events that take place on his mournful ride home from the hospital. It’s a substantial bit of storytelling that I highly recommend. You can watch it here!