Arde baby, arde (Dead Aim) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Arde baby, arde (Dead Aim) Reviews

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½ May 29, 2010
The low-budget, Mexican-lensed western frontier saga "Dead Aim" qualifies as an interesting, often unsavory, but uneven oater with smudges of brilliance, striking imagery, and outstanding editing. The six-gun shoot'em up action itself borders on the surreal as do its unusual gallery of characters and their predicaments. Veteran Hollywood character actor James Westerfield of "The Sons of Katie Elder" emerges as the biggest name in a largely unknown cast. Everybody else seems to blend into the beautiful Hispanic scenery. Director José Antonio Balanos stages the gunfights with a modicum of style and clearly aspires to be a Mexican Sergio Leone. Indeed, Balanos hired Sergio Leone's editor Nino Baragli to cut this picture, and the various segments hang together smoothly enough considering the disjointed nature of the story by Balanos and scenarists Pedro F. Miret and Tony Monaco.

The movie opens as a duster-clad horseman, Deek (Carlos East of "Snake People"), rides back into this home town, and discovers to his surprise that his blonde wife Sara (Barbara Angely of "Blood Feast") has left him for another man and has taken their son, too. Furiously, Deek pursues them into the desert. He wields his Winchester and shoots the other man, but his victim manages to sling one lethal shot that kills Deek. After the other man dies, Sara and her baby struggle to fend for themselves in an inhospitable desert. Why didn't they just turn around and ride back to their home? Eventually, Sara succumbs to the elements, but the toddler survives. The film's most striking image depicts the crying toddler scrambling across the sand toward a huge, menacing rattlesnake. Of course, this baby is nowhere near such a venomous reptile, but Baragli edits it so that it appears like infant and snake are near each other. Ironically, the infant is drawn to the sound of the rattle, not realizing the deadly nature of the snake.

At the last second, a Good Samaritan intervenes in the form of John Appleby (James Westerfield) and he kills the serpent with his swift accurate bullwhip and then slices off the tail rattle and gives it to the toddler. The toddler takes to wearing it around his neck and grows up with Appleby serving as his father. The lad wears the snake rattle around his neck, and he interprets all trouble as the equivalent of a snake's rattle, eventually becoming a psychotic himself.

John Appleby stands out as a non-traditional western character. He is a middle-aged undertaker, clad in dark dress clothing, with a black hearse. He drives around from town to town picking up dead bodies and planting them in the earth for so much per head. Mind you, he is not your typical western mentor. He buries Johnny's mother and raises the boy as if he were his own son. The governor-general has authorized Appleby as the official undertaker of the territory; Appleby receives receipts for the many corpses that he buries, and he plans to redeem these receipts when the American Civil War concludes. He reports to the District Commissioner (mustachioed Jorge Russek of "Hour of the Gun"), the only other recognizable screen veteran in the nameless cast. Early on in the action, after the undertaker has rescued our hero Johnny (Glen Lee of "The Naked Angels"), Appleby assures the youngster, "Sometime you'll realize how lucky you are to have been born in America." Johnny ages from infancy to adulthood in twelve minutes and the rattlesnake rattle that he wears around his neck. He helps Appleby in his unpleasant line of work. Occasionally, Balanos allows Johnny to voice his thoughts on the soundtrack. "So I spent my childhood digging . . ." Meanwhile, Appleby reminds Johnny, "Someday we'll get out of this damned desert forever." Appleby and Johnny dream of acquiring enough money and setting up a funeral home with a cemetery. When the number of dead bodies dwindles, Appleby and Johnny have to resort to other means to earn their income. Johnny has not been able to get the deadly rattle of the rattlesnake out of his head and he has become a swift gun hand.

Once Balanos and his writers have set up these two characters, he switches the story to a former New Orleans prostitute named Kelly (Venetia Vianello of "Pink Zone") and her gunslinger boyfriend, Poggin (Virgil Frye of "S.F.W."), a hirsute hombre who refuses to bathe before they swap bodily fluids. Lucky Johnny spies on these two before they set out to rob the coach and becomes infatuated with Kelly. Indeed, he becomes obsessed with her and eventually leaves Appleby to be with her. These two plan to rob a U.S. Army armored coach shipping gold and the pretty girl will distract them while her boyfriend gets the drop on them. During the robbery, the boyfriend lobs dynamite into the locked up coach interior and it kills everybody and spooks the horses. He has to track the coach down and figure out how to get the money out.

Later, Balanos and his writer add another character, an African-American, U.S. Cavalryman Lucius (Evaristo Márquez) who has deserted from the service and wants to join forces with Kelly. This is what distinguishes "Dead Aim" as a 1970s' western, the incorporation of the black guy into the action. Check out what happens to him at fade-out. Things get really tangled up with these abrupt shifts to different characters. Overall, "Deadly Aim" is just as cynical and bloody as any Spaghetti western. Alex Phillips' photography is first-rate. The ending is rather ironic,the music is offbeat, and production values are rock solid. This was James Westerfield's final film. During the early shoot-outs, the gunshots sound like those from an Italian western. Spaghetti western fans will appreciate the cynicism in the plot, but non-western moviegoers may find this sagebrusher a mite spicy for their taste. Of course, "Dead Aim" is no masterpiece, but neither does it scrap the bottom of the barrel.
½ May 29, 2010
The low-budget, Mexican-lensed western frontier saga "Dead Aim" qualifies as an interesting, often unsavory, but uneven oater with smudges of brilliance, striking imagery, and outstanding editing. The six-gun shoot'em up action itself borders on the surreal as do its unusual gallery of characters and their predicaments. Veteran Hollywood character actor James Westerfield of "The Sons of Katie Elder" emerges as the biggest name in a largely unknown cast. Everybody else seems to blend into the beautiful Hispanic scenery. Director José Antonio Balanos stages the gunfights with a modicum of style and clearly aspires to be a Mexican Sergio Leone. Indeed, Balanos hired Sergio Leone's editor Nino Baragli to cut this picture, and the various segments hang together smoothly enough considering the disjointed nature of the story by Balanos and scenarists Pedro F. Miret and Tony Monaco.

The movie opens as a duster-clad horseman, Deek (Carlos East of "Snake People"), rides back into this home town, and discovers to his surprise that his blonde wife Sara (Barbara Angely of "Blood Feast") has left him for another man and has taken their son, too. Furiously, Deek pursues them into the desert. He wields his Winchester and shoots the other man, but his victim manages to sling one lethal shot that kills Deek. After the other man dies, Sara and her baby struggle to fend for themselves in an inhospitable desert. Why didn't they just turn around and ride back to their home? Eventually, Sara succumbs to the elements, but the toddler survives. The film's most striking image depicts the crying toddler scrambling across the sand toward a huge, menacing rattlesnake. Of course, this baby is nowhere near such a venomous reptile, but Baragli edits it so that it appears like infant and snake are near each other. Ironically, the infant is drawn to the sound of the rattle, not realizing the deadly nature of the snake.

At the last second, a Good Samaritan intervenes in the form of John Appleby (James Westerfield) and he kills the serpent with his swift accurate bullwhip and then slices off the tail rattle and gives it to the toddler. The toddler takes to wearing it around his neck and grows up with Appleby serving as his father. The lad wears the snake rattle around his neck, and he interprets all trouble as the equivalent of a snake's rattle, eventually becoming a psychotic himself.

John Appleby stands out as a non-traditional western character. He is a middle-aged undertaker, clad in dark dress clothing, with a black hearse. He drives around from town to town picking up dead bodies and planting them in the earth for so much per head. Mind you, he is not your typical western mentor. He buries Johnny's mother and raises the boy as if he were his own son. The governor-general has authorized Appleby as the official undertaker of the territory; Appleby receives receipts for the many corpses that he buries, and he plans to redeem these receipts when the American Civil War concludes. He reports to the District Commissioner (mustachioed Jorge Russek of "Hour of the Gun"), the only other recognizable screen veteran in the nameless cast. Early on in the action, after the undertaker has rescued our hero Johnny (Glen Lee of "The Naked Angels"), Appleby assures the youngster, "Sometime you'll realize how lucky you are to have been born in America." Johnny ages from infancy to adulthood in twelve minutes and the rattlesnake rattle that he wears around his neck. He helps Appleby in his unpleasant line of work. Occasionally, Balanos allows Johnny to voice his thoughts on the soundtrack. "So I spent my childhood digging . . ." Meanwhile, Appleby reminds Johnny, "Someday we'll get out of this damned desert forever." Appleby and Johnny dream of acquiring enough money and setting up a funeral home with a cemetery. When the number of dead bodies dwindles, Appleby and Johnny have to resort to other means to earn their income. Johnny has not been able to get the deadly rattle of the rattlesnake out of his head and he has become a swift gun hand.

Once Balanos and his writers have set up these two characters, he switches the story to a former New Orleans prostitute named Kelly (Venetia Vianello of "Pink Zone") and her gunslinger boyfriend, Poggin (Virgil Frye of "S.F.W."), a hirsute hombre who refuses to bathe before they swap bodily fluids. Lucky Johnny spies on these two before they set out to rob the coach and becomes infatuated with Kelly. Indeed, he becomes obsessed with her and eventually leaves Appleby to be with her. These two plan to rob a U.S. Army armored coach shipping gold and the pretty girl will distract them while her boyfriend gets the drop on them. During the robbery, the boyfriend lobs dynamite into the locked up coach interior and it kills everybody and spooks the horses. He has to track the coach down and figure out how to get the money out.

Later, Balanos and his writer add another character, an African-American, U.S. Cavalryman Lucius (Evaristo Márquez) who has deserted from the service and wants to join forces with Kelly. This is what distinguishes "Dead Aim" as a 1970s' western, the incorporation of the black guy into the action. Check out what happens to him at fade-out. Things get really tangled up with these abrupt shifts to different characters. Overall, "Deadly Aim" is just as cynical and bloody as any Spaghetti western. Alex Phillips' photography is first-rate. The ending is rather ironic,the music is offbeat, and production values are rock solid. This was James Westerfield's final film. During the early shoot-outs, the gunshots sound like those from an Italian western. Spaghetti western fans will appreciate the cynicism in the plot, but non-western moviegoers may find this sagebrusher a mite spicy for their taste. Of course, "Dead Aim" is no masterpiece, but neither does it scrap the bottom of the barrel.
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