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A Bullet for the General (El chuncho, quien sabe?) Reviews

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DragonEyeMorrison
DragonEyeMorrison

Super Reviewer

May 13, 2010
As far as Zapata westerns goes this one has a strong reputation, and i can see why. It has good action sequences, a great cast and solid direction. Story wise it's an ambitious but problematic affair, the political commentary of the movie feels flat because of it's either naive or short-sighted nature. El chuncho is the cliche of the mexican bandit with the "heart of gold", tempted by the cold and greedy "gringo" who just wants to make a quick cash without caring for human life at all. The entire arc of this fable lacks smooth transitions, which ends giving us a Chuncho who switches gears too often and too abrupt depending of where the script is going, not so much of where the characters are going.

There is never any particular motivation for him to trust gringo so much, so their relation is never as strong as the movie tries to portray it. The themes of friendship, loyalty and political beliefs are just not well devoleped, and considering films like compañeros and duck you sucker just did it better "el chuncho" really doesn't come out as highly as it's reputation would suggest.
Conner R

Super Reviewer

June 26, 2010
A really fun and interesting Mexican Revolution story blended with the spaghetti western style. Gian Maria Volonte is always such an interesting character, no matter the role. He works really well as a crazy gun collecting Mexican Bandito with no shame. Klaus Kinski's also pretty memorable as a gung-ho priest who throws grenades whilst churning out bible quotes. I think it's very well made and intelligent, I'm a big fan of Westerns that try new things.
Harlequin68
Harlequin68

Super Reviewer

September 17, 2009
"A Bullet for the General" is set during the Mexican Revolution in the 1910's at a time of great bloodshed. Part of that occurs on a section of track as a rebel group led by Chucho(Gian Maria Volonte) have tied an army captain to a cross on the tracks in order to stop a train, kill soldiers and steal rifles, but not harm any of the passengers. When that does not exactly go as planned, Tate(Lou Castel), a wealthy American, intercedes on their behalf by killing the engineer and stopping the train himself. While pretending to be an escaped prisoner, he is allowed to join Chucho's gang, who while stealing a good amount of rifles for resale, are still disappointed that they did not find a machine gun.

"A Bullet for the General" is an entertaining if overlong movie that suffers from miscast international actors not only playing it broadly, but are also dubbed. While the movie basically favors the rebel side, it also does not shy away from showing both sides committing unnecessary acts of violence, as both are fond of executing prisoners. While not excusing them, at least Chucho's gang uses violence in the cause of giving the people a chance for a better life by stealing the rifles from the government to be sold to the rebels, while making a modest living. And in the set piece on the tracks which is the highlight of the film, Chucho is sadistic by what he does to the captain while not expecting the army to call his bluff. Regardless, the soldiers may not have had any choice since they might have been dead anyway, as they are being picked off one by one.
October 22, 2013
I expected to like this movie more than I did. The main characters are compelling. Dollars Trilogy bad guy Volonte is brilliantly cast here as a morally ambiguous figure who wavers between gangster individualism / opportunism and commitment to a cause. Castel combines the silence of a man-with-no-name type character with the clean cut looks of a Neil Patrick Harris who never turned to drugs. And of course Kinski is brilliant as a principled killer priest. Most of the plot is kind of winding. Maybe it's supposed to have long patches with confused, muted motivations, and this is a commentary on what real revolutions are like? There's not a lot of drama around the titular bullet and general. The epilogue of the movie is interesting, though, reflecting on Bill Tate's Yanqui individualism, and this in a sense made me rethink the whole movie as being a deconstruction of the black hat / white hat / gray hat dualisms of even "morally complex" Spaghetti westerns. Classic "man with no name" figures in Spaghetti westerns have a moral complexity because they don't follow "good guy" moral codes; they are often bandits or outlaws, yet they achieve a kind of moral justification through their decent treatment of individuals they run into, especially the weak, downtrodden, and excluded. A Bullet for the General flips this script. Is Bill Tate a condemnable mercenary or a man-with-no-name type who will achieve a kind of justification through individual decency? With cunning and a surprising amount of risk, he stops a woman from being raped; she is the wife of a local governor, and neither of them are especially sympathetic, but Tate's willingness to intervene to stop a heinous act recommends him for the man-with-no-name justification. He treats Chucho (who I'm pretty sure is really named "Chucho," and not the Francophile "Chuncho") with unnecessary friendship and decency, complicating Chucho's feelings towards him. Yet in the end, the viewer sees, through Chucho's eyes, another aspect of Tate's personality and political existence which have remained constant: his disgust and contempt towards poor Mexicans as a class / nationality / race, despite his ability to befriend individual Mexicans. If the typical man with no name achieves a kind of filmic salvation through a staunch refusal of the social through his gentleness with individuals who are somehow weak or outside the boundaries of societal protection, Tate achieves a kind of inverted filmic damnation. His bad deeds and greed, which initially may seem excusable in light of his individual decency, are put in perspective by the fact that his individual decency only extends to those people who are humanized and individualized within Tate's own moral code. He still treats Mexicans-in-general like dogs, and Chucho ("mutt" or "cur" in vernacular Spanish) responds to this realization with a kind of existential, a-logical choice.

Writing about this movie convinced me that I liked it better than I thought I did. It is a sort of deconstruction of the value system of the (less clearly radical, Leone-style) spaghetti Western that still remains within the genre. But don't expect the tight plot and dramatic tension of a Leone film! If you like interesting characters and this ideological, deconstructive element, this film is definitely worth your time; if not, Duck, You Sucker! / Once upon a Time, the Revolution is probably a more digestible Zapata western.

The dub was terrible - especially since a) materials suggest the dub edits out most of the politics (I definitely noticed this a bit in the beginning, where the Spanish speakers were talking about revolution and nothing about revolution was dubbed into English) and b) unlike in the Leone films, to my knowledge none of the main characters were speaking dialogue in English. This film is worth a modern criterion collection type treatment with original language tracks and subtitles!
January 2, 2013
Great political spaghetti with the wonderful Gian Maria Volonte. Worth seeking out.
August 17, 2012
poor spaghetti western
June 9, 2012
It can drag a bit, but it's admirably ambitious, it has solid action scenes, and an engaging on screen relationship.
July 3, 2011
Damn!!!! This is actually a good spagetthi western! Very well filmed, Volonte is amazing as Chucho the bandito. Now my only problem with this film is the american title, but for that it makes up with suspence great action sequences, great acting and a good story. It rivals the dollar trilogy as my favorite spagetthi western.
David H.
November 11, 2010
That's one of my Favourite Spaghettiwestern A Revolution Western of Class with the hillarious Trio Lou Castel, Gian Maria Volonte & Klaus Kinksi so stylish, full of Socio-Critsm, Violence & with a realistic Senseless Behavouir of the Characters
moviebuff18cab
June 7, 2004
A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL (1967)
Harlequin68
Harlequin68

Super Reviewer

September 17, 2009
"A Bullet for the General" is set during the Mexican Revolution in the 1910's at a time of great bloodshed. Part of that occurs on a section of track as a rebel group led by Chucho(Gian Maria Volonte) have tied an army captain to a cross on the tracks in order to stop a train, kill soldiers and steal rifles, but not harm any of the passengers. When that does not exactly go as planned, Tate(Lou Castel), a wealthy American, intercedes on their behalf by killing the engineer and stopping the train himself. While pretending to be an escaped prisoner, he is allowed to join Chucho's gang, who while stealing a good amount of rifles for resale, are still disappointed that they did not find a machine gun.

"A Bullet for the General" is an entertaining if overlong movie that suffers from miscast international actors not only playing it broadly, but are also dubbed. While the movie basically favors the rebel side, it also does not shy away from showing both sides committing unnecessary acts of violence, as both are fond of executing prisoners. While not excusing them, at least Chucho's gang uses violence in the cause of giving the people a chance for a better life by stealing the rifles from the government to be sold to the rebels, while making a modest living. And in the set piece on the tracks which is the highlight of the film, Chucho is sadistic by what he does to the captain while not expecting the army to call his bluff. Regardless, the soldiers may not have had any choice since they might have been dead anyway, as they are being picked off one by one.
megladon8
February 8, 2006
A surprisingly awesome western. I'm glad it was, because I didn't want that box set to turn out to be horrible after the HUGE disappointment that was "Four of the Apocalypse".

Gian Marie Volonté was awesome and played a great bandit that you couldn't help rooting for. He just has so much charisma...I'd almost say I liked him better in this than in A Fistful of Dollars.

The gunfights are not so much standoffs ala eone, but more epic battles. I'm not complaining...simply stating the difference :)

I really did love the movie. Entertaining all the way through, and had some very interesting socio-political issues that it tackled throughout the film. The idea of the Mexican bandits being seen as scum, when in fact they were more honorable than the white men who were the real slimeballs that don't care about friends, only fortune. Of course, I don't know if this is accurate, but it was an interesting idea and the setting fit.
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