24 July 2008
You can't beat that for a title, can you?
I saw this movie first about 15 years ago, and remembered it only in bits and pieces. Since we started up our Peckinpah retrospective last month with Convoy, I've been wanting to watch it again, hoping that it was every bit as good as I remembered it.
According to IMDb: "An American bartender and his prostitute girlfriend go on a road trip through the Mexican underworld to collect a $1 million bounty on the head of a dead gigolo." Yeah, but that's only the set-up. Said bartender, Warren Oates, soon learns that his prostitute girlfriend recently spent three days and three nights with Alfredo Garcia, which only serves to make the idea of decapitating him more appealing. When Oates learns that Garcia is already dead, killed in a car accident, it only makes his job easier - but also goes a long way in making him more despicable. For a while, anyway.
It's strangely crafted: I thought the first half dragged, with all the talk about dreams and finding a better life, but come midpoint I realized its purpose, and understood just how necessary all that talk was. The first half of the movie is the calm before the storm...
There were so many things I enjoyed about this film. I loved listening in on calls between Jon-Marc and his friends, I thought the discussion Jon-Marc had with a friend and a female stranger at a bar at the end was fascinating, and I especially enjoyed Jon-Marc's roving-reporter stuff when he interviewed his colleagues about interracial dating. Sadly, these things were asides to the film's main purpose which involved Jon-Marc securing a date for a woman he'd only met once, who was in town for one week, and wanted to "experience" a black man for the first time.
The catch, if it can be so called, is that the woman wanting the date is also black. And so while Jon-Marc spends most of his time chasing up friends to go out with the woman, Marilyne, I wanted to hear more in the way of discussion about the fact that Marilyne, in her early 40s and living in Africa, has never been romantically involved with a black man. Whenever the film brings this topic up, it becomes extremely compelling. When discussion ends and we go back to Jon-Marc and his pimping (which is essentially what he's doing), tedium sets in.
Still, Jon-Marc is great. He's so charismatic and his friends are so interesting that I was never actually bored, just frustrated at his choice of focus. Chasing the dates was not that interesting. Without rewriting the film, I thing Jon-Marc should have confessed at the start what he was doing. To listen to the men react to dating Marilyne knowing her background surely would have created some great discussions.