800 Bullets

"Good"

800 Bullets Review


There is a mythic quality to the western. It's buried in the images: a lone cowboy silhouetted against the setting sun, tumbleweeds rolling to nowhere, a Winchester spun slowly, boots kicking dust. In the 1960s, when European directors were mining film tropes, making hundreds of films a year, the Western had an élan that was nearly hypnotic. Italians, in particular, began producing western films that aped the iconic grandeur of the American west but had a zest that was undeniably Continental. There was something novel in the swagger of the man with no name. There was both a cool detachment and a hip aggression. The good guy from the Ford westerns wasn't as good anymore, now he was a beatnik with a sombrero and a twitchy trigger finger. By the time Leone released The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly the spaghetti westerns had surpassed, both stylistically and thematically, the ancestral Hollywood westerns to become what is now called, simply, the Western. (One cannot imagine an Oscar-winning film like Unforgiven without the influence of the spaghetti westerns.)

800 Bullets is Alex de la Igelsia's (the long neglected Spanish director responsible for the cult sci-fi satire Acción Mutante and the dark comedy La Communidad) ode to the eternal mystique of the spaghetti western. It is both a black comedy (de la Igelsia's forte) as well as a nostalgic look at the films that, for many, informed a generation.

In 800 Bullets, 12-year-old Carlos Torralba (Luis Castro), is a spoiled brat who runs rampant around his busy mother and grandmother. Like many 12 year-old boys he's entirely out-of-control. When he learns that his grandfather, an old spaghetti western star played by Sancho Gracia, is still alive and working in the remote Almeria region of Spain, where most of the spaghetti westerns were filmed, he heads out to meet him. Arriving in Almeria, Carlos joins his grandfather and a motley crew of aging western stars, who recreate classic western scenes for a dwindling crowd of tourists, to defeat a plan to turn the area into a Disneyland-like resort.

The title sequence in 800 Bullets is homage to the animated, collage credit sequences found in For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. It's expertly edited and brilliantly realized and shows de la Iglesia's deep love for the genre. He's got it down to a fine and easy art. We're talking Saul Bass expertise. (The ill-conceived Wild Wild West attempted a similar title sequence, but it just came off as showy and artificial.) While the rest of the picture can't match the effortless brilliance of this title sequence, it has a charm and wistfulness all its own. This isn't one of de la Iglesia's vitriolic works, he's toned the satire down a few notches - and some of the sequences are downright touching - but we still get the message. The march of time is a mofo.

The high point here, naturally, is the cast of aging spaghetti western stars. Led by actor/stunt man Sancho Gracia, who actually appeared in a number of spaghetti westerns, including the surreal Django, Kill... If You Live, Shoot!, the band of old coots are a real joy to watch. They've been at the game so long they can no longer tell where the line between acting like cowboys and being cowboys is drawn. When they get real bullets and barricade themselves in for a standoff the whimsy ends. We all know by now: in a western, the standoff never ends clean.

Aka 800 balas.



Facts and Figures

Production compaines: Alan Young Pictures, Panico Films, Televisión Española TVE, Canal+ España, Etb (Euskal Telebista)

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Álex de la Iglesia

Producer: , , Álex de la Iglesia

Starring: as Julián, Ángel de Andrés López as Cheyenne, as Laura, as Scott, Luis Castro as Carlos, Manuel Tallafé as Manuel, Enrique Martínez as Arrastrado, as Enterrador, Eduardo Gómez as Ahorcado, Terele Pávez as Rocío, Ramón Barea as Don Mariano, Cesáreo Estébanez as Andrés, Eduardo Antuña as Taxista, Gracia Olayo as Juli, as Angeles, Yoima Valdés as Sandra, Ane Gabarain as Jacinta, Alfonso Torregrosa as Police Chief, Arantxa Silvestre as Woman in Stagecoach, Juan Viadas as Monitor, Pablo Pinedo as Elías

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