TLA/Color/2.35/Dolby/125 Mins./Not Rated
Cast: Sancho Gracia, Angel de Andrés Lopez, Carmen Maura, Eusebio Poncela, Luis Castro, Manuel Tallafé, Enrique Martinez, Luciano Federico, Eduardo Gomez, Terele Pavez, Ramon Barea, Cesareo Estébanez, Eduardo Antuña, Berta Ojea, Yoima Valdés.
Credits: Produced and directed by Alex de la Iglesia. Screenplay by Jorge Guerricaechevarria, de la Iglesia. Executive producer: Juanma Pagazaurtandua. Director of photography: Flavio Labiano. Production designers: Arri & Biaffra. Edited by Alejandro Lazaro. Music by Roque Baños. Costume designer: Paco Delgado. Associate producer: Maria Angulo. A Mahou, Panico Films and Warner Sogefilm production, in association with Sogepaq, EITB, Canal+ Espana, and TVE. In Spanish with English subtitles.
A comic tribute to spaghetti westerns, 800 Bullets makes fun of a genre that's been dead for some 30 years. Aficionados may get a kick out of spotting obscure film references and dated stylistic flourishes; others are more liable to be puzzled than amused.
Director and co-screenwriter Alex de la Iglesia (The Day of the Beast) places the bulk of the story in modern-day Texas, Hollywood, a run-down Wild West theme park that was the location for many westerns shot as European co-productions in the late 1960s. Spoiled young runaway Carlos (Luis Castro) has gone there to find his long-estranged grandfather Julian (Sancho Gracia), erstwhile stuntman for Clint Eastwood.
Crowds have dwindled for Julian's Wild West show, a few threadbare skits also starring Cheyenne (Angel de Andrés Lopez), once a waiter in a nearby bistro, and Manuel (Manuel Tallafé), whose many rooftop falls have affected his hold on reality. "Indians" are played by migrant farm workers from Morocco, some of whom are also dealing drugs.
When Carlos shows up in the middle of a show, Julian sends him home immediately. Then Julian is framed for dealing, and ends up in jail unable to pay his bail. Knowing that Carlos has his mother Laura's (Carmen Maura) credit card, Cheyenne and the others bring him back. The newly freed Julian takes everyone to a local brothel to celebrate.
By coincidence, Laura and her partner Scott (Eusebio Poncela) are in the middle of a theme-park development deal. Furious with her former father-in-law, Laura vows to destroy Julian by turning his park into a Disney knockoff, putting everyone else out of work. Desperate, Julian and his friends barricade themselves inside the Wild West set, resorting to real bullets to keep the police away. As tensions escalate, Julian must reconcile himself both with his stalled career and with the death of his son many years earlier in a stunt accident.
Gracia, who worked in westerns like A Hundred Rifles early in his career, brings authority and conviction to his role as a stuntman living in the past. But his grizzled looks and bear-like presence can't overcome a script that is by turns weirdly unfocused and maudlin. Given the chance to say something interesting about westerns and their place in contemporary life, director de la Iglesia instead offers lazy slapstick, farfetched melodrama and some fleeting nudity. It's a mix that will mean little to those who aren't devotees of the genre.