800 Bullets

(800 Balas)

If not for the language and sex, 800 Bullets would make for a really nice fairy tale. It works best as a whimsical grown-up fantasy about living ones dreams. There is a nice sense of nostalgia that flows through the film, and this is the type of movie where, everybody knows that nobody will get hurt even with all the bullets flying around. The man living in the past is Julian Torralba (Sancho Gracia, El Crimen del Padre Amaro, Box 57), once a stunt double for Clint Eastwood in Almeria, Spain, where Eastwood shot many of his westerns. Hollywood moved on, leaving a dilapidated western town where Torralba and friends now work. Texas-Hollywood is a tourist destination, where people can watch a live stunt show performed by Torralba.

Torralba's son died in an accident years ago, and his daughter-in-law Laura (Carmen Maura, Valentin, Killers on Holiday) never forgave him, and made sure that her son Carlos (Luis Castro, Mondays in the Sun) never met him. Too bad for Carlos that Laura is not much of a mother. Work is more important than family, and when Carlos learns that his father was a cowboy, he milks enough information out of his grandmother to run away to Torralba. Torralba is initially horrified. He has no desire to hang out with this strange kid. But Carlos has this wonderful sense of enthusiasm about him, that reawakens in Torralba a zest for life.

Writer/director Alex de la Iglesia (Common Wealth, Dying of Laughter) and co-writer Jorge Guerricaechevarria (Common Wealth, Dying of Laughter) clearly love old westerns. They infuse Torralba and his friends with a reverence for Eastwood and his other films. Between shows Torralba leads guided tours around the town, telling old stories and showing off old props. Nobody, except for Carlos, believes him when he says that he doubled for Eastwood. Gracia is wonderfully fun to watch. He is an irascible old man who loves to tell stories. He can be annoying, yet riveting because he is so sure of himself. It almost doesn't matter if he knew Eastwood or not. He's old, but still looks like he can kick the crap out of anyone. In other words, he's the perfect grandfather.

800 Bullets then takes a weird turn. Things get more serious, but also more whimsical. The real world again intrudes on Texas-Hollywood. A large company buys the town, which means that Torralba will lose his job. Although this is bad, the fact that a piece of movie history will disappear troubles him more. Torralba finally realizes that he is living in the past, and that he needs to do something in the here and now. It eventually leads to an old Western showdown, between some old world cowboys and new world businessmen. It is surreal at times watching Torralba marshal a bunch of vegetable pickers, prostitutes, and washed up coworkers to revolt, and pretty amusing although far removed from reality. The set up drags out, and de la Iglesia does make the film a little too long for its own good.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 4 minutes, Spanish with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains nudity, sexuality, language, and comic violence, an easy R.

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