800 Bullets (2002)
Director: Alex De La Iglesia
Carlos, a hyperactive 10 year old boy played by Luis Castro, discovers that his father and grandfather were stuntmen in the Spaghetti Westerns shot in Spain in the 1970s. His wealthy single mother won’t tell him anything about them as his father/her husband is dead and she obviously harbors some resentment towards the grandfather. After coaxing some information out of his grandmother he skips out on a class skiing trip and, using the credit card his mother gave him for emergencies, takes a cab to Almeria, the area where classic Eurowesterns such as “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” were shot. There he finds his grandfather (Sancho Gracia) and a number of other ex-stuntmen living in “Texas-Hollywood” where they perform a Wild West show for foreign tourists who came to see the at which many of the famous Spaghetti Westerns were made. After the group of men finds out who the boy really is a series of events ensue that will change their lives forever.
Along with “Bubba-Ho-Tep”, this was the movie I was most looking forward to at this years Seattle International Film Festival, as well as being the last one I had planned to see on the schedule. Being a huge fan of Iglesia’s previous films such as “Accion Mutante”, “Day of the Beast”, “Perdita Durango”, and “La Communidad”, I had high expectations going in. From the opening scene where the boy, his mother, and his grandmother were introduced it became apparent that “800 Bullets” was going to be radically different than anything Iglesia had done in the past. Take away the mild violence, nekkid prostitutes, “adult” situations, massive booze consumption and profanity and we would have a very nice (albeit short) family film in which a boy is reacquainted with his long lost grandfather! This does not mean that it is a bad movie however; on the contrary I found it to be an incredible movie, and arguably the best movie I’d seen at the festival this year. From the boy’s fascination with the old westerns to the stuntmen (and would be stuntmen) living in a fantasy world at “Texas-Hollywood” to the turn of events after Carlos’ mother found out he was with his grandfather, this movie had a lot going on. All of the actors performances were top notch and very convincing and their characters were developed well enough that I really grew to like them. Cinematography was your typical De La Iglesia, albeit with a number of obvious tributes to directors like Sergio Leone thrown in such as close-ups of the eyes of the grizzled “cowboys”, men on horses riding against familiar scenic vistas from classic Eurowesterns, and gunfights that could have come straight from “For a Few Dollars More”. All things said and done, this was a great movie that I wholeheartedly recommend to fans of Alex De La Iglesia’s movies and/or fans of classic Eurowesterns. I only hope someone has the sense to release this one in the US, I think a lot of non-genre film fans would really enjoy it.
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