When John Sayles was out promoting his critically acclaimed and darn near commercial "Lone Star" a couple of years ago, he was inevitably asked what he intended to do next. He said he was writing a script with a political backdrop set in Latin America, and that it would be in Spanish and Indian dialects, with subtitles, with an all-Latino cast--if someone will pay for it.
And though he tends to focus on personal relationships within a political context, no two of his movies are alike. "Men With Guns," as Casey Stengel might have put it, is more unalike than any of them. It spirits us into the mountains and jungles of an unidentified Latin American country, where the recently widowed and ailing Dr. Fuentes (Federico Luppi) has set out on a working vacation to visit the medical students he had trained years before to work with impoverished natives.
"Men With Guns" is a slow-paced trip, with a lot of translated conversation, and Sayles keeps it pure. The actors are said to be speaking in four dialects, and there's nothing about the film, other than the ill-conceived couple (Mandy Patinkin and Kathryn Grody) used as comic relief, to give away its American origin. Sayles has never been a visual stylist, and his latest film is as straightforward and plot-bound as any of the earlier ones.