As a general rule, the only people who are allowed to be good with guns in a movie belong to one of three categories: (1) policemen and other law enforcement officials, as well as prosecuting attorneys; (2) criminals and immoral women; and (3) military personnel, including veterans. But civilians who own guns usually just get themselves killed. If the civilian does not buy the gun himself, but simply gains possession of it somehow, he is allowed to use the gun effectively. But if he buys the gun himself, he is doomed. In short, movies tend to support the position of gun-control advocates, who argue that civilians are more likely to hurt themselves by owning a handgun. Those, on the other hand, who believe that it is a good idea for civilians to own a gun, who support the idea of the armed citizen, will often be exasperated by the way civilians are portrayed in movies as being incompetent with guns that they own. But this movie is the absolute worst of them all in this regard.
Kluger, who was on death row in Folsom Prison, manages to escape. He had sworn revenge against the detective who arrested him and the prosecuting attorney who convicted him, and soon kidnaps them, along with Carol, the girlfriend of his partner Tony, because he suspects her of informing on him. Kluger and his two henchman, Nick and Lefty, pack up their captives and a lot of stuff, and put them in a moving van so they can drive to a place and meet up with Tony. That is where the civilian comes in. His name is Joe, and he owns the moving van, which he is forced to drive. And he owns a gun.
Joe is supposed to drive the van with Lefty sitting in the cab with him. Everyone else is hidden in the van. Just before Lefty gets in the cab, Joe lowers his visor and grabs his gun. He could easily shoot Lefty and then take off running, but he chickens out and puts the gun back. Later, they come upon a roadblock, where there are several cops looking for Kluger. One of the cops opens the door of the cab to talk to Joe. All Joe would have to do is dive out of the cab and let the cops take care of Lefty, but he just sits there instead. Never mind that Kluger, known to be a vicious killer, is not going to let him live once he is no longer useful, and so Joe has nothing to lose by making a break for it, he is apparently too timid to risk it.
When they stop at a filling station for gas, Joe retrieves his gun and hides it on his person while Lefty is dealing with a policeman. He should do something right then, but he doesn't. Eventually, they arrive at a cabin, where they wait for Tony. While everyone is asleep, Joe pulls out his gun. He should just start shooting, but he wakes everyone up instead. Oh well, at least he has the drop on them. He can get the detective and the prosecutor in the next room to take their guns away from the gangsters and all will be well. But Kluger starts walking toward Joe, talking to him in a soothing tone of voice, saying it was a mistake to pull out the gun. "Come on, give it here," Kluger says, as he gently reaches out his hand and takes the gun away from Joe without any resistance. "Now, isn't that better?" Kluger asks. Joe smiles and says, "Yeah." And then Kluger shoots him.
Joe gets the award for being the biggest loser civilian with a handgun in cinematic history. Once the audience has been taught the lesson that it is a mistake for a civilian to buy a gun and try to use it to defend himself, the rest is just routine. The only people left are those who movies allow are capable of using a gun, and so it is just a matter of time before one of them gets his hands on a gun and uses it competently. As it turns out, Carol, who is qualified to use a gun on account of her being a cheap gangster's moll, picks up Kluger's pistol and points it at him. This time Kluger knows he is in trouble, because she is not a spineless civilian like Joe, whom he can coax the gun away from. He begs for mercy, but she puts two slugs in him, and it's all over.
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