A Paella Western Revives Gunfight at the Outré Corral

First they lost their empire. Then Spain saw a second golden age slip away when production shut down on the Andalusian desert that served as backdrop to such disparate spectaculars as Lawrence of Arabia, Patton, and Doctor Zhivago. All that remains of that era, at least according to 800 Bullets, is a dilapidated back-lot ghost town nicknamed Texas Hollywood. That's where the aging Julián (Sancho Gracia)—who claims to have been Clint Eastwood's stunt double in A Fistful of Dollars; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; and countless other spaghetti westerns shot there—now stages ersatz gunfights for tourists. A surprise visit from Julián's runaway grandson stirs up his dormant nostalgia. Playing Sancho to Julián's Quixote, the kid helps the old man take one last stand against the unstoppable forces of "progress": Julián's daughter and her business partner (played, in another Spanish-cinema in-joke, by Almodóvar refugees Carmen Maura and Eusebio Poncela), who plot to usurp the land for Euro Disney. Though the high-noon climax drags somewhat, Álex de la Iglesia's charming comedy celebrates the resilient power of dreams, memories, and the movies.

 
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