Western Watchins #122
I once was going to marry this other girl until I met my wife one day and everything changed. I realized I never simply want to exist, I want to live! I once figured I’d die in Orlando. Maybe in a Costo parking lot. Then I visited the Old Reno outside of Tucson one day and everything changed as I realized I’d die in Arizona…after a shootout…maybe in a Costco parking lot…on the streets of Tombstone. I once felt that thousands of friends was a necessity, then, so many people revealed themselves to be wishy-washy, back stabbing “it’s best for business” types and everything changed. I realized the few who would take any bullet for you meant more than the multitude just waiting to put one in you. These are some ponderous ponderings, illustrating the point that one moment, one minute, one millisecond can flip-fuck every calm and metered expectation you think you have all figured out for yourself. Last week, had you told me I would soon be watching Tomas Milian in a film and enjoying myself as I did so, I would have asked how much it cost you. “Cost me for what?” you’d question. “Cost you to fill up full of bullshit everyday because son, that’s some bullshit right there” I casually reply as I back away from the conversation and your fountain like spewing of that shit most particular to a bull. If you read last week’s Watchins you’ll know exactly how I felt about Life is Tough, eh Providence? and its main star. I have to believe that even a bumblebee orgy held at the world’s premier bumblebee swingers’ club would feature less bumble-fuckery than that spectacularly awful film. Ergo, I sat stunned when who should appear on my screen acting competently but this desert drunk specter of rugged, pathos fueled intensity?
I liked The Bounty Killer (The Ugly Ones when first released) probably as a result of watching it all completely sytmied and put so off guard by Mr. Milian’s performance as José Gómez. Last week’s utter ass-clown was now this week’s Big Bad bad-ass, a multileveled and malevolent Mexican now stood where mere days ago had been only a slapstick sonofabitch from Whothefuckcaresville. His steadily shifting eyes, his smooth on the edge of a gravel road voice and that trademark, high pitched, out of control giggling at the most inappropriate times was all there but now all of that had a script, a setting and numerous side characters allowing for Bounty Killer to completely eschew the ridiculous in lieu of mostly riveting. José was outstanding. Having a great foil to clash against didn’t hurt either:
That’s Richard Wyler, a live action Sterling Archer as Luke Chilson, the tough-as-nails yet smart-as-college-educated-nails bounty hunter who’s on the hunt for José’s bounty. He may end up killing him as is possibly given away by the poorly transposed title of the latter American release. Milian’s guy-who-was-wronged-using-that-as-an-excuse-to-go-bad was a peculiar mix of sympathetic and scumbag while Wyler remained constant avoiding the prevalent trope of the day to feature a morally ambiguous protagonist. Luke Chilson was, like Boba Fett and many other famous real world bounty hunters, just doing his deadly job while still preferring to bring in his quarry alive. He had Gómez and the Goméz gang to constantly contend with plus, as an added bonus, a small village full of dumbshits hell bent on defending their former friend (Gómez) turned right now murdering bastard (still Gómez!) Said villagers including all your standards like “retired sheriff guy” and “Guy who looks like Mario Brega because he is Mario Brega guy.” You also had a kindly older couple who were kind of bigger pacif-idiots than all the rest. I didn’t recognize either of them unless you count the fact that the wife looked a lot like this:
It was creepy. She looked like a terrible cosplay of Mother and was terribly distracting in her obviously fake grey hair. Now matter how they had styled her though, it wouldn’t have mattered. Halina Zalewska also lived in town.
Gorgeous! And tragic too from what I’ve found. She only appeared in a few more films after this one before dying in a fire at the age of 36. Knowing that, her performance adds a somberness to an already haunting production. The Bounty Killer feels like it takes place on Mars. I’ve seen desolate locales in the past of course but this sparse landscape populated by only a few forlorn phantoms makes this seem like a story set in an aimless purgatory where sinners are left to sulk in the aftermath of poor choices and missed opportunities. No one lived out there whether good or evil, everyone simply existed. When you lack direction decisions become meaningless, just more distractions that won’t ever fill up all the hollow you’ve got inside of you.
A weight hung upon all these characters turning them tangible in a way I haven’t often felt wading through any film. There’s several inexplicably perfect shots taken and Death was many times outmaneuvered as is the case with most silver screen shootouts but there were also a number of outstandingly normal reactions and behaviors on display. The comforting mundane. As actions of cruelty went unchecked all that normalcy stared at you accusingly. We’ve all been on the edge of right and wrong with nothing but our nuts to see us through. I’ve not always acted courageously and Bounty Killer reflected that imperfect humanity in all of us. It was bitter to recognize but beautiful too. Bad guys on film are so bad right? They’re not at all like you an me and easy to despise because of it. The villains this week weren’t so plain as for you to avoid noticing that their flavor was a mite similar to yours. Maybe not always, but at some point we’ve all made excuses, we’ve all been cruel. While you might not endorse Jóse Goméz, you sure as hell understood him even if that understanding stuck sideways in your gut.
Conversely, the “good” folks in the film struggled to act accordingly as well. There was occasional bravery and it stood out like bleached driftwood floating on a darkened sea. People brought their cowardice to the boiling point and finally realized that heads down and mouths shut wasn’t any kind of way to got through life even if it meant riskin’ livin’. Scumbags, cretins and cocksuckers we’ll have always with us. The villagers living in this story, and you living in yours, have a decision to make. You gonna’ take a knee or take up the fight? It’s a substantial question that’ll take the volumes of your days to properly answer and a fine film here for asking it.
4 rounds in the cylinder for The Bounty Killer. A standout among the many throwaways from its era, surreptitiously strong and worth a watchin’. I’m now even looking forward to the next time Tomas Milian’s path crosses with mine, counting this turn as the folk hero turned fuck a personal favorite. He was a spectacularly mad dog and enjoyable to the last. After my initial assumptions of the man last week I can now stand before you pleasantly corrected. You ride long enough and you’ll find that a willingness to offer second chances smooths out the road ahead considerably. Forgiveness is always an option.
Unless someone’s still being a dick.
Then it’s probably best you just shoot them or unfriend them or something.