Unlike the symbolic and conceptual focus of many short films, Six Shooter is a narrative driven experience and focuses on a bizarre and convoluted plot, rife with razor sharp dialogue and black humour that is common in McDonagh's work. This was the Irish playwright's first foray into the world of film making and shares many similarities with the stage play format that he originally mastered as it is dialogue heavy- most of the time the narrative is told, not shown. Whilst this seems like it is not suited to the short film medium, its 26 minute running time this means it is able to capture the audience through characters and dialogue- something that will be nearly impossible for our 3-4 minute film.
Six Shooter begins in a grim, grey hospital as the protagonist Donnelly is informed by a doctor that his wife has passed away. He then lackadaisically gives away the information that he is having an unusually busy morning due to three cot deaths and a mother shot by her son ("she had no head left on her"). It is on this dour and surreal note that Six Shooter begins- things only get stranger from this point on.
Whilst on the train back home, Donnelly encounters a strange, flamboyantly dressed boy, telling stories rife with profanity and violence, chain-smoking cigarettes. Whilst Donnelly enjoys being distracted by the inane and ridiculous ramblings of the boy, a couple sitting across the aisle grow increasingly more agitated. They clash with the boy over his use of unsavoury language. When the boy is gone, Donnelly asks them why they are so upset- they are returning home from the hospital following a cot death.
These bizarre circumstances continue to build up in the background as the boy continues to distract with his increasingly tall stories- Donnelly is unsuspecting but behind his back, the mother of the dead child has jumped from the train, egged on by the boy's taunting. As the police inspect the train before sending it on its way, they notice the face of the boy waving at them enthusiastically. The pieces of the puzzle begin to come together- as the doctor said, there had been 3 cot deaths and a murder.
Donnelly realises this late, when the train stops and an armed police ambush begins. The dialogue heavy Six Shooter climaxes with a sudden shootout, ending with the boy being shot down by the police like an outlaw. His last words to Donnelly are: "I didn't hit one of 'em. That was fuckin' woeful shooting. Fuckin' woeful like."
The film ends with a scene of Donnelly at home with the one thing he has left- his pet rabbit. Armed with the boy's six shooter with only two bullet left, he prepares for the end. After killing his pet, he prepares to be reunited with his wife and rabbit and places the gun to his head. However, after fumbling and dropping the weapon, it goes off, leaving him with no bullets left. Left alive by his own clumsiness, his sighs "Oh Jesus; what a fuckin' day."
Six Shooter stands out as an extraordinary short film (winning the Academy Award in 2004) and its similarities with more 'conventional' short films are minimal. However, its pacing allows the final scenes to have a bombastic impact on the audience, making it a great example of creating a piece of work that is shorter than a feature length film but packs the same punch.